After an exhilarating two weeks of tennis in Madrid, fans are eagerly anticipating another week of captivating competition at the Italian Open, kicking off this week in Rome at the outdoor Foro Italico stadium.
Last week, the All Court Tennis Club asked whether anyone could stop the winning machine that is Carlos Alcaraz on his home soil, and the answer to that question was definitive – no!
Alcaraz brought out the big guns in front of his home fans to retain the ATP 1000 title; beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the final and asserting his position as the form player in the men’s game.
The win cemented a Spanish double for Alcaraz, as he repeated his success by winning the Barcelona and Madrid titles for a second successive year.
The women’s draw in Madrid was also intriguing, as world No.1 Iga Swiatek was beaten by Aryna Sabalenka, adding spice to their rivalry ahead of the French Open.
WHO CAN STOP CARLOS ALCARAZ?
If there’s one man who can get the job done, it’s Novak Djokovic.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to injury; allowing Djokovic to secure a 22nd Grand Slam with ease, and while Alcaraz is the form player on the ATP Tour right now, a blockbuster showdown with Djokovic has yet to take place in 2023.
Whether it happens in Rome or at the French Open, that match needs to happen before the debate over the best player in the men’s game can be resolved.
IS SWIATEK VULNERABLE AT ITALIAN OPEN?
Aryna Sabalenka turned the tables on Iga Swiatek to win the Madrid Open after a compelling final in the Spanish capital.
The top two on the WTA Tour met in a final for the second event in a row after Swiatek beat Sabalenka in Stuttgart, but this time it was the Belarusian who came out on top; winning 6-3 3-6 6-3.
“It was really intense,” said Sabalenka. “It’s always tough against Iga. She always pushes me to the limit. I really enjoy our battles. Hopefully we can play many more finals this season.
“I definitely respect her a lot. She’s a great player, and what she did last season and what she keeps doing, it really motivates me a lot to improve, to keep working hard, to keep fighting.”
Women’s tennis needs a rivalry that will get fans excited, and we are seeing a heated one develop between Swiatek and Sabalenka. So, stand by for an epic showdown if the top two meet in the French Open Final next month.
OLD TIMERS COME GOOD
At the age of 33, Jan-Lennard Struff has finally come of age.
His battling performances at the Madrid Open saw him glide through a series of tight three set matches to set up a final against Alcaraz.
While many observers expected an easy afternoon for Alcaraz in the championship match, his brand of serve and volley tennis on clay troubled his in-form rival.
Struff is now at a career-high ranking of 28 and he looks to build on that as he counts down to the French Open.
There was another great story in the men’s game at the weekend as 35-year-old Andy Murray won his first title in three and a half years at the ATP Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence.
Murray made light work of his meetings against lower-ranked French opponents on his run to the final, leading him to beat world number 17 Tommy Paul 2-6 6-1 6-2 to lift the title.
Murray is now up to No.42 in the ATP rankings, as he looks to break into the top 32 and ensure he is seeded for Wimbledon in July.
MOMENT OF THE WEEKEND
Aside from the on-court action that unfolded at the weekend, an epic Roger Federer moment was also thrown into the mix.
The 20-time Grand Slam legend was in attendance at the Miami Formula 1 Grand Prix and Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle was eager to grab a brief interview with the Swiss maestro on the starting line.
With Brundle struggling to get hold of Federer, former F1 world champion Jackie Stewart offered a helping hand.
Bursting under the barriers and barging past security, he persuaded Federer to give his views on F1 to the broadcaster.
It is hard not to smile at this clip:
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