Alcaraz begins the defense of the throne at Wimbledon

Eight men retained the London individual title in the Open Era

July 01, 2024

Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates a point against Mark Lajal in the first round of Wimbledon.
By ATPTour.com/es Staff

Playing the grass of Centre Court for the first time is an experience reserved for the greats. Carlos Alcaraz enjoyed the privilege of being the reigning Wimbledon champion on Monday, unleashing his strokes on the impeccable British grass that welcomes him with honours. At just 21 years old, and one of the most sought-after figures at the All England Club, the Murcian is moving around London with the ease of a great veteran. Protecting the throne is a privilege that the Spaniard faces in immaculate white.

The No. 3 in the PIF ATP Rankings held his own in his London opener, beating Estonian debutant Mark Lajal 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-2 to keep his record in Grand Slam opening rounds intact. The Baltic native, with no previous experience in the final draws of the majorswas immersed in a match of very hard blows in one of the great temples of sport. The stage could not have been bigger to cross the threshold, a baptism of fire that the current champion took care of extinguishing with two hours and 24 minutes of effort.

Far from having a smooth start, the Spaniard had to roll up his sleeves to chart a path to victory. Lajal’s shots, hard enough to exploit the low bounce of the grass, forced Alcaraz to come back from a break in the first two sets. If the atmosphere of Centre Court imposes itself on the first-timers, the Estonian knew how to isolate himself perfectly from the environment.

“I was a little surprised because I hadn’t seen him play much,” Alcaraz admitted. “He’s a very young player, he’s my age. I’m sure we’ll see him on tour and we’ll play each other more often. I’m very happy to move forward and get my first win on Centre Court this year.”

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Alcaraz returns to a stage of enormous impact in the history of Spanish sport. A year ago, the Murcia native became the third man from La Armada to lift the gold cup in London, taking over from Manuel Santana (1966) and Rafael Nadal (2008, 2010). The grass of Centre Court once again plays host to his spectacular tennis, a real breath of fresh air for a tournament steeped in tradition.

The reigning champion is looking to the horizon after overcoming the first obstacle and adjusting his game to the conditions of the British capital. With the aim of gaining speed in the first week of competition, Alcaraz will play the second round of Wimbledon against Australian Aleksandar Vukic or Austrian Sebastian Ofner, recent runner-up on the grass of the Mallorca Championships.

“This Wimbledon court is the most beautiful I’ve ever played on. I still feel nervous when I compete here,” Alcaraz said. “I practiced for 45 minutes on Thursday and it was the first time I felt nervous during a practice. I felt nervous about playing here.”

The Murcian extends a highly successful season on the circuit in London. After defending the Indian Wells crown and ascending to the Roland Garros throne, lifting a Grand Slam title for the third consecutive year, Alcaraz lands in the British capital consolidated in the first line of the circuit. The Spaniard, who opened his grass-court tour at Queen’s two weeks ago, has a record of 27-6 in the 2024 season.

With a career written at breakneck speed, Alcaraz launches himself into Wimbledon into territory that is practically unknown in the Open Era. Juan Carlos Ferrero’s pupil is fighting to win his fourth Grand Slam title before turning 22, something only achieved by the Swedes Björn Borg and Mats Wilander, true examples of precocity on the circuit during the 70s and 80s. With constant joy, Carlos writes feats typical of other times.

For his part, Roberto Bautista Agut managed to join Alcaraz in R2 on Monday, after signing a solid 6-3, 6-1 and 6-4 victory against the German Maximilian Marterer. The Spaniard did not give up his serve throughout the match and was strong in his service games, signing nine aces and sealing the victory in straight sets in just one hour and 49 minutes of play.

Bautista, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2019, is in the second round of Wimbledon for the ninth time and is one match away from returning to the Top 100 of the PIF ATP Rankings. He will now face Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who beat Argentine Mariano Navone 6-4, 7-6 (2) and 6-4.

Did you know…?
Carlos Alcaraz will try to become the 9th man to retain a singles title on the grass of Wimbledon. The Murcia native, who has a collection of feats reserved for sporting icons, will try to follow in the footsteps of legendary figures at the All England Club such as Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Source: https://www.atptour.com/es/news/wimbledon-2024-alcaraz-lajal-r1

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