Carlitos Alcaraz premiered for the first time in Toronto, after winning his first Wimbledon and consolidating his number one. If he didn’t have time to celebrate his victory on London grass, he also hasn’t had time to adjust to Canada’s fast concrete. He didn’t match the intensity of Ben Shelton, 41st-ranked and a bomber through and through. A 20-year-old jewel full of impudence, daring and aggressiveness. A talent with a lot of potential but who, at the same age as the Spaniard, still has traits to polish. It did not make it easy for the Murcian who had to accept a more passive and defensive role that also helped him to achieve his thirteenth consecutive victory and go to the round of 16, where the Pole Robert Hurkacz awaits (not before 1 in the morning, Movistar+) which is ranked 17th in the ranking.
It was difficult for Alcaraz to get into the rhythm of the game, not only because of the inactivity of the last few weeks but also because of the fast and powerful missiles of the American. Shelton remained very aggressive in the first games and crushed the ball with every second serve from Murcia. For this reason, the man from Palmar clung to the first services and saved three break balls in the first game. He sighed Carlitos with each racket of the American who does not have transition shots in his repertoire but has a Russian roulette on his left arm. Either winner, or unforced error.
Ben Shelton, one of the great promises of North American tennis and who broke into the beginning of the season reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, has made aggressiveness and power his personal brand. But playing at that pace doesn’t always work, especially against a player like Alcaraz who, being just as young, knows how to read his opponent’s intentions. He did not accept the American’s balls as impossible and played tricks trying to anticipate Shelton’s missiles. “I have tried to reach my level but it has not been easy, Ben has been more aggressive than me from the first point to the last. I have tried to be solid throughout the game, but it has been difficult”, assured the number one at the end of the match.
The start of the American hard court tour began the same as the grass season, uncomfortable and unsafe. Until Carlos greased the machine to a certain extent, as he began to enter the court, he subtracted the American’s first serves and patiently returned the blows or waited, more effectively, for Shelton’s error. Thus came the Murcian break in the fourth game. The number one achieves a lot with very little and not even the impetus of the American managed to bother him on his way to the first set: 6-3 in 42 minutes. Alcaraz only put the ball in and the Atlanta man was in charge of sending it out when he missed his blows. Carlos knows when to hit hard and when to wait. It is the difference between number one in the world and 41 in the ranking.
In the second match, the American changed tactics, leaving brute force aside and playing with his head, more tactical in serves and with more approaches in the net. The same in the rest where he was looking for alternatives beyond direct blows. But Alcaraz, who on his first night in Toronto took on the role of defender rather than attacker, remained confident and collected when Shelton pressed. Even so, the fact of playing so defensively meant that at times when Carlitos could take off his game, he did not feel comfortable. The low rhythm of the match did not help the Murcian to adapt to the Canadian fast track.
“After one ball, another one comes,” Antonio Martínez Cascales reminded him, in the absence of his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero who will arrive in Cincinatti, when Carlitos was rushing at some point. The Murcian was trying to recover the tonic of the first set: patience and wait for Shelton’s failure. However, this time the American would not fall into the trap who, although he lowered his heart rate with the rest, kept them intact with his serve, serving above 220 kilometers per hour. During the course of the set the roles were changed and now it was number 1 who rushed and missed.
The services were maintained and it would be the Tie Break that would decide the winner of a balanced second set. It would be here when the tone of the game reappeared: again the nervousness of the American and again Alcaraz showing the number one stripes again. Shelton failed and Alcaraz assured. Without brilliance or essence, but with skill and effectiveness, the Spaniard beat the American (6-3, 7-6) in 1 hour and 39 minutes and opened with victory in Toronto.
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