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Madrid Open: Alcaraz rallies past Ruusuvuori to reach third round

Madrid (Spain), April 28 (IANS) Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz survived a major scare at the Madrid Open as he moved past Emil Ruusuvuori 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the third round, here on Friday

“It was really tough. I would say I was about to lose. It was just one point,” Alcaraz said after the game.

“One of the break points he had at 2-3 in the second set was like a match point for him. I was really happy I was able to save that game and come back a bit. It was really tough. Emil played unbelievably, but I am really, really happy to get through that,” he added.

The Spaniard defeated Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to the title in Madrid last year, but didn’t have things all his own way against the clean-hitting Finn in his opening match at this year’s event.

After losing the first set, the 19-year-old dug deep in the second set, saving all five break points he faced before levelling the match. Roared on by a vocal home crowd inside Manolo Santana Stadium, Alcaraz raised his level in the third set.

He reduced errors, used the drop shot effectively and demonstrated incredible agility to produce moments of magic and triumph after two hours and 16 minutes.

With his 24th tour-level win of the season, Alcaraz improved to 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Ruusuvuori, avenging his defeat to the 24-year-old in Miami in 2021. Alcaraz will next face Grigor Dimitrov at the clay-court event.

Alcaraz is chasing his 10th tour-level title and fourth ATP Masters 1000 crown this fortnight. Earlier this year he triumphed on clay in Buenos Aires and Barcelona, while he won the title on hard in Indian Wells.

The top seed can also boost his World No. 1 hopes with a deep run in Madrid. If Alcaraz successfully defends his title he is guaranteed to pass Djokovic in top spot on 22 May just by playing his first match at the Italian Open, regardless of how Djokovic performs there.

Ruusuvuori, who was making his Madrid debut, was aiming to earn his third Top 10 win. The World No. 41 produced relentless and aggressive tennis throughout large periods of the clash, but was unable to maintain his level at crucial moments. He leaves Madrid 14-12 on the season.