Tennis: Alcaraz to face Norrie again for ATP Rio title

AFP , Sunday 26 Feb 2023

Top-seeded defending champion Carlos Alcaraz fended off hard-hitting Nicolas Jarry 6-7 (2/7), 7-5, 6-0 on Saturday to reach the final of the ATP Rio Open.

Spain s Carlos Alcaraz celebrates a point during the ATP 500 Rio Open singles tennis semi-final match against Chile s Nicolas Jarry at the Jockey Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 25, 2023. AFP


Alcaraz lined up a title rematch with second-seeded Briton Cameron Norrie, who  out-lasted Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3).

It will be the second meeting between Alcaraz and Norrie in as many tournaments, after the Spaniard's narrow victory in the Buenos Aires final last Sunday.

"It's going to be a very tough match, Cameron is at a great level, he has already shown it in previous matches," Alcaraz said in an on-court television interview.

Alcaraz's Argentina triumph cemented his return from a four-month injury layoff. The 19-year old was sidelined late in 2022 with a torn abdominal muscle and he withdrew from the Australian Open in January after picking up a leg injury in training.

His fitness was tested against Jarry, a former world number 38 now ranked 139th as he tries to climb back after serving an 11-month doping suspension in 2020.

The Chilean broke Alcaraz in the second game of the contest as his punishing groundstrokes carried him to a 5-3 lead.

Alcaraz, whose US Open triumph last September saw him become the youngest ever world number one, found his astonishing shot-making touch to win 12 straight points, breaking Jarry as he leveled the set at 5-5.

But Jarry dominated the tiebreaker, roaring to a 5-1 lead and polishing it off with a service winner.

The second set was another tense battle. Alcaraz saved four break points in the opening game and they went with serve from there until Alcaraz -- who had the trainer on at the last two change overs -- broke Jarry to love to pocket the set.

The third was all Alcaraz. He gained his first break for a 2-0 lead with a spectacular running forehand winner and wrapped it up with his third break of the set after two hours and 43 minutes.

Norrie will be playing his third final of the year and seeking a first title after his runner-up finishes in Auckland and Buenos Aires.

After splitting two lopsided sets, he and Zapata Miralles traded breaks midway through a tense third.

Norrie fought off a break point at 5-5 as they went to the tiebreaker, in which he seized the initiative with a drop shot winner and never trailed.

"It was good from him and I was a little bit impatient," Norrie said of his second-set struggles. "I tried to finish the points a little bit too early. I was a bit overconfident."

After grinding two and a half hours in his eighth match in 11 days, Norrie was pleased to come through physically.

"I just found a way, it was really tough," he said. "He fought hard."

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