Playing poorly and becoming champion, the only thing Alcaraz was missing before the dream of winning Roland Garros.

Alcaraz mira a Roland Garros
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MADRID – “I don’t see it,” was heard from Carlos Alcaraz’s box when German Jan-Lennard Struff was a rampaging tennis nightmare who had silenced the Caja Mágica. But you saw it: Madrid champion and, having passed the all-important subject of winning despite playing badly, why not Roland Garros champion?

The world number two’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over the world number 65 hides an important story: Struff could have won, could have won when at 1-1 in the third set he had a break point on the serve of a dazed Alcaraz after losing the second set. He did not take advantage of it and the match straightened out towards the predictable, Alcaraz champion. For the fourth time this year after Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona.

Alcaraz looks to Roland Garros

The 20-year-old Spaniard did not play well, something that was evident in the final celebration. Defeated on his back on the Madrid clay, he took a few seconds to pace his breathing, no euphoria, just relief and with his eyes closed. A hit with the racquet on the floor, followed by a “come on” and an important certainty: the young prodigy of world tennis is now in a position to achieve great things without having to give his best.

“Today I’ve enjoyed it at times, I’ve suffered more, but that’s what you have to live with. In these situations your nerves get the better of you, your legs weigh you down”, explained Alcaraz after the final against an opponent who combines power, touch and audacity, and against whom he lost in the third round at Roland Garros two years ago.

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There were significant lapses in the final when the Spaniard’s serve didn’t work as it should, and that affected the rest of his game. But when Struff hesitated, when the moment was decisive, the fiercest Alcaraz woke up: he threw in his face all the tennis he had. Not all he has, just what he had at that moment. It was enough for him to successfully defend the title won in 2022.

“You have to be there all the time, I knew Struff was a very aggressive player and I had to be ready. Today I had to be a little less aggressive, but in certain moments I had to play my game and forget about my opponent. In the key moments that’s what I did,” said the Spaniard, who has the great challenge of winning his second Grand Slam next month in Paris, while the question remains open as to whether Rafael Nadal will play or not.

Alcaraz had words for his team that touched his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero: “I don’t consider them my team, I consider them family, and for me that’s super, super important”.

The Spaniard had entered the stadium with “Eye of the Tiger”, by Survivor, thundering. A moment earlier, Struff had done so with the mere mention of his name by the official announcer. Details that Madrid did not seem to take care of in an edition in which the absurd affair of the birthday cakes – an unsubstantiated story – was added to something that is important: the women’s doubles champions were not allowed to speak at the trophy ceremony.

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“It’s hard to explain to Leo that mommy can’t greet him at the trophy ceremony,” Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka tweeted after she and Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad-Maia defeated the world number one pairing of Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-4.

Alcaraz looks to Roland Garros – why can’t he be champion?

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