Carlos Alcaraz’s rapid rise continues this week at the Western & Southern Open, where his 7-6(4), 6-1 win over Marin Cilic on Thursday made him the event’s youngest quarter-finalist since Andy Murray 16 years ago.
The Spaniard could overtake Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev at No. 2 in Pepperstone’s ATP rankings by winning his third ATP Masters title of the season in Cincinnati. After reaching the quarter-finals, he remains at 4th in the Pepperstone ATP Live rankings but is less than 600 points from second place.
Alcaraz showed great resilience against Cilic on center court, bouncing back hard after missing two set points as he tried to serve the opening set.
“I know Marin is a very aggressive player. I had to be really focused on the game,” Alcaraz said after his victory. “I knew it was going to be a tough game, that I had to be [mentally] in the game all the time. I knew I was going to have my chances of breaking his big serve. So I’m really happy with the performance and the concentration in the game.”
The 19-year-old was in control and didn’t drop a single point on first serve until he crossed the line at 5-4 in the opener. But the Croatian resumed his aggression late in the set, and after three consecutive double faults from Alcaraz restored his break advantage, a quick grab from Cilic forced his opponent to serve to stay in the set.
Rising to the occasion, Alcaraz resumed the attack to claim eight straight points and regain control of the set and the match.
“Obviously, these kinds of things can happen in very close moments,” he said of the hiccups on serve. “It’s hard to come back after three double faults in a row to break my serve at that moment, but I’m serving very well so I’m going to train a bit more tomorrow before the quarter-finals. But I have the fairly high confidence.”
In the second set, Alcaraz cemented an early romance by saving a pair of break points at 2-0. He continued to dictate play and was rewarded with an insurance break late in the set.
Alcaraz wrapped up a strong serving performance with eight aces and an 83% first-serve win rate, topping Cilic’s four aces and 60% first-serve win rate. The Croatian finished with 27 unforced errors as he was forced to press the matter to stay in the rallies against his in-form opponent.
The Spaniard next faces ninth seed Cameron Norrie, who ended Ben Shelton’s dream debut with a 6-0, 6-2 win on Thursday night.
Now 17-3 at the ATP Masters 1000 this season, Alcaraz is in contention for its third title at this prestigious level (Miami, Madrid). He is the only player with multiple Masters 1000 titles in 2022.