Musetti denatures Alcaraz in the Hamburg final

Musetti denatures Alcaraz in the Hamburg final

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Musetti, during the Hamburg ATP 500 final against Alcaraz.CATHRIN MUELLER (REUTERS)

It couldn’t be contained. Carlos Alcaraz raised his arms, put his hand to his ear and asked the fans for more, applause and push, a bit of poetic justice for what he had just gone through. It turns out that Lorenzo Musetti served to win the match, the final of the Hamburg ATP 500. And, at 15-0, he replied to a drop shot from the Spaniard after the second pot to then win the point from the net. Carlitos -as he likes to be called- protested vigorously to the chair umpire, who did not validate the complaint while the Italian pretended to be Swedish, a very unsportsmanlike gesture because he knew full well that he had not arrived on time. Ruse that seemed to drive the Spanish crazy. But he only seemed so because he saved two match points in that game – an error by the Italian and a phenomenal passing-shot– and, already in the tie-breaker, another three (they were 6-3 for the Italian) to win the second set. But Musetti was not upset or lost the north, but still squeezed a little more tennis out of him, enough to win the match 6-4, 6-7 (6) and 6-4. The first laurel for the Italian and a small defect for Alcaraz, who lost his first final of the six that he had contested so far on the circuit, but that will not prevent him from starting next week as fifth in the ranking ATP. “You deserve the tournament, you are an incredible worker,” Alcaraz acknowledged at the end of the match.

Alcaraz choked on Musetti’s tennis at the beginning and in a bad way. The high and spin balls that came to him from the other side of the net, which prevented him from generating speed in his electric shots, in addition to the Italian’s tremendous reliability with the first serve and the ability to charge him on the backhand or attack the balls in the middle of the track, they came to denature the Spanish. It didn’t matter to Musetti that this was his first final, because he soon realized that the nerves and hesitations had remained in the locker room. “come on!”, he released in a liberating way after breaking his service in the first game. Brilliance that he would repeat later to get 4-3 -Alcaraz had returned the break immediately-, so as not to miss the lack of consistency offered by the Spaniard, who twisted his face and raised his arms helplessly because he could not find a good version of his tennis.

His shots, always to the limit and risky, went long or into the net, as if there were no middle ground. Musetti, more restrained and solid, defended himself with the serve, speed and spin serves, with angles or powerful, with hardly any failure. That and the deep remains, also his ease in blurring the rival’s tennis by imposing his rhythm and the exchange of varied shots, gave him the initiative, also the first set.

Alcaraz, during the Hamburg final against Musetti.
Alcaraz, during the Hamburg final against Musetti.CATHRIN MUELLER (REUTERS)

Juan Carlos Ferrero, his coach, encouraged him from the stands, worried that his services were not going in and he was making more forced errors than he should have, because Musetti made him feel that he had to play a couple more shots to win the point. Also because he charged him on the backhand and they didn’t go in too much, determined to finish the points on the fast track. Piggy bank of tension that earned him to lose his service again in the first game of the second set. And he did not give his arm to twist Musetti, exceptional with the first serve, phenomenal in defensive strategy and as explosive as decisive when he had to attack. Until the controversial move came, the double jackpot, and Alcaraz explained that the game does not end until the last point. Second set for him.

Already with the wind in his favor, the Spaniard comforted by his gallantry and skill in moments of panic and disorder in Musetti’s game and even his head due to missed opportunities, Alcaraz recovered his tennis. That one with flat backhands and right hands that opened angles, that aggressive one with deep hits, that one with little drops to win in the first or second instance. But in front was Musetti, who went from less to more in the third round, who forgot what happened and also raised his tennis, fine-tuned with the one-handed backhand, the corner serve and the right hand in search of the lines. Tennis-art. Battle in superlative degree. And with 5-4, taking out Alcaraz, a new match point was won. It was the sixth. And, finally, the definitive one.

Exactly one year ago, Carlos Alcaraz was 73 in the world in the ranking ATP, a nobel tennis player who was beginning to show his head among the elite rackets, those that Musetti pointed to because he had been junior number one for a reason. Two of the best exponents of the new generation that is arriving – Félix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda, even Juan Manuel Cerundolo or Brandon Nakashima-, who already squeezes the vaunted NextGen -Daniil Medevedez, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Karen Kachanov-.

A year ago, Carlitos was still unknown to those who were not seasoned in the sport, a player to uncork. A year ago, the tennis player from El Palmar played and won the final of the ATP 250 in Umag (Croatia), his first title among the elders. Laurel that catapulted him to a dazzling emergence because this Sunday Alcaraz explained that a year is far away, already number five in the world after winning five titles – out of six finals he has played (Rio Janeiro, Barcelona, ​​Madrid and Miami). This week, as the number one seed, he will return to Umag. Where everything began and where everything continues. Despite Musetti, who sneaks into the top 40.

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