Carlos Alcaraz has been playing with fire throughout his run in Cincinnati Open this week. None of his matches have been a straight-set affair, with Alcaraz having bounced back from a set down in two of the four matches he played so far. And while most may express concern of this fact, it also prepares him for the difficult challenge that waits in US Open next month and a glimpse of it was witnessed on Saturday night in Ohio when he stood had to fend off a match point on serve at 4-5 in the second set against Hubert Hurkacz to win the three-set thriller 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. Alcaraz hence reached his maiden Cincinnati Masters final, eighth in an ATP event this year and third in a Masters 1000.
You separate a champion from the rest on their ability to bounce back from the most difficult match situations ever. Alcaraz showed his class yet again in the semi-final tie on Saturday as he remained focused despite failing to convert any of his first ten break points. After denying Hurkacz to convert his match point, he forced a tie-break where he won six consecutive points from 1-4 down to take the match down to the deciding third. And it was in the final set where he eventually managed to earn his first break of serve, in the fourth game, before wrapping up the contest in two hours, 16 minutes.
“It was a mental semi-final, I had to stay there,” Alcaraz said in his on court-interview. “I had a lot of break points, it was really tough. Obviously saving a match point is never easy but with my coach, we were talking about staying positive all the time and to stay there. We knew I was going to have my chances and I tried to take it. Every match against Hubi is really, really tough but I’m really, really happy that I was able to win.”
Alcaraz matches Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic
The victory saw Alcaraz improve his record at ATP Masters 1000 events to 45-13, making him only the fourth player since 1990 to achieve 45 or more Masters wins before turning 21, after Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Roddick. The run includes four Masters 1000 title hauls in Miami Open, Indian Wells and consecutive trophies in Madrid Open.
It was also his 53rd win of this season, as he stands five away from better his winning tally from 2022 campaign. The 12-time tour-level titlist now stands on the verge of being the youngest Cincinnati champion since Boris Becker in 1985 as he aims for his fifth ATP 1000 trophy.
“It’s been a really tough tournament, all matches [have gone] three sets,” Alcaraz said. “But I’m really happy to win these kind of matches and stay strong mentally, these matches are really good for me. I grow up a lot thanks to these matches.”
The win also guaranteed Alcaraz of retaining his world No. 1 ranking after the spot became up for grabs following his shock early exit at the Canadian Open last week. Irrespective of the result in the final in Sunday, Alcaraz will head to the US Open as the top seed.