Alcaraz overpowers Gasquet to win his first Australian Open match since 2022
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The bugs bothered Carlos Alcaraz in his first match at the Australian Open for two years, and so did the 37-year-old veteran Richard Gasquet.
For the first set, at least.
After taking an hour and 12 minutes to clinch the opener in a tiebreaker, second-ranked Alcaraz raced through the rest of the match in another hour against the tiring, sweat-soaked Frenchman for a 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-2 win on Tuesday night.
The first two games took a combined 17 minutes, with the 20-year-old Alcaraz needing a few moments to try to remove a persistent insect that was bothering him behind the baseline just before he held for 1-1.
Both players used their rackets to push the bugs away from the court after the eighth game, and Alcaraz was at it again after the first set.
There were few distractions after that until Alcaraz was serving for the match and the game went to deuce five times before he closed with an ace.
He threw in some drop shots and slices that made Gasquet run, saying it shows he's “playing for myself, but I always try to make the people enjoy watching tennis.”
“Every set, I played better and better,” he said. "In the end, I played at quite a good level.”
He will next play Lorenzo Sonego, who beat Dan Evans 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Last year, Alcaraz had to withdraw from the Australian Open because of an injured right leg. That was the rare hiccup in a run of four major tournaments that netted him two titles — the 2022 U.S. Open and Wimbledon last year — and trips to the semifinals.
Gasquet was playing in his 17th Australian Open and his 73rd Grand Slam singles draw overall — equal third with Novak Djokovic on the all-time list for the Open era.
A first-round loss in Auckland last week ended Gasquet's streak of 843 consecutive weeks in the top 100 dating back to April 2005.
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis