Carlos Alcaraz, 20, is having a great season with his fourth consecutive singles title this year.
The Spaniard, who is ranked as No. 1 in the World, is emerging as clear favorite to win the upcoming French Open at Roland-Garros, which starts on May 22.
Alcaraz is currently playing at the Rome Open where – along with Novak Djokovic, 35, – he remains a favorite.
Commenting on the tight Madrid final between Alcaraz and Jan Lennard Struff, 33, President of the Junior Champions Tennis Center (JTCC) Vesa Ponkka describes it “as an unbalanced match” as the Spaniard was such a clear favorite.
Struff nonetheless was able to win the second set.
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“The reason the German was able to do so was because he played without fear as he had nothing to lose,” he adds, while explaining that Struff “was an underdog who never really had a chance as there was no question about what the outcome of the match would be.”
Alcaraz won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Ponkka, who is one of America’s preeminent tennis coaches, points out that over the past 10 years since Struff turned pro, he’s not won a singles tournament. “He’s a ‘hit or mis’ kind of a player who lacks consistency to compete against the top players in the world and to be one himself.”
In Madrid, he achieved a career high.
The German is ranked No. 28 in the World.
Whether Alcaraz wins the Paris Open – or the unfolding Rome Open – as we have seen, remains an open question as he will inevitably face off against Djokovic. The Serb is on track to become the greatest men’s player of all time.
The two have yet to meet this year.
“Even if Alcaraz loses to Djokovic in the semifinals or in the finals in Rome or Paris, there won’t be any question about the Spaniard enjoying one or two good tournaments,” Ponkka explains.
Responding to whether there were any surprises in Madrid, the tennis coach immediately points to Aslan Karatsev, 29, who is No. 53 in the World. He only lost to Struff in the semifinals.
“The Russian outperformed expectations.”
Vesa Ponkka is one of America’s preeminent tennis coaches. Photo credit: Courtesy
In the final, Aryna Sabalenka, 25, defeated Iga Swiatek, 21, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the Madrid Open.
Swiatek is No. 1 in the World while Sabalenka is No. 2.
“I was surprised that Sabalenka was able to defeat Swiatek,” Ponkka explains as the Belarussian is “consistently moving ahead.” The Pole, however, remains the favorite to win at Roland-Garros but “there’s no question that Sabalenka is moving closer to Swiatek’s formidable abilities.”
In Madrid, Swiatek was “serving poorly” the JTCC President notes, but points out that she continues “to win a lot” but that one shouldn’t read too much into her performance in Madrid.
“To lose at the Madrid Open final doesn’t necessary mean that something is wrong with Swiatek or that her performance was a bad result,” he says.