Carlos Alcaraz’s Wimbledon hopes hung by a thread on Monday evening. However, the 19-year-old survived to reach the second round at Wimbledon for the second time.
In a tight battle on Court 1, the 19-year-old rode out an attacking bombardment from Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff to advance 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 after to tense four hours and 11 minutes.
Competing for the second time at Wimbledon, Alcaraz raised his intensity and dug his heels in as he scampered around the baseline to hang in points, while he found moments of magic in the key moments to improve his five-set record to 5-1.
“I enjoyed [the match] a lot,” Alcaraz said in his post-match press conference. “Great battle over four hours. for me [to] play on grass is so beautiful. I like to play on grass. I would say my level on grass has to improve a little bit. But I’m happy with my level today.”
The Spaniard produced a stunning backhand passing shot at 0/2 in the fourth-set tie-break to keep himself in the match, before he raised the roof with his shot-making at the end of the fifth set to improve to 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series with Stuff.
Alcaraz will next play Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor or Fabio Fognini as he aims to reach the third round at SW19 for the first time.
Last year, the World No. 7 lost to Daniil Medvedev in the second round. But Alcaraz is a different proposition now, having captured a Tour-leading four tour-level titles in 2022, with victory over Struff his 33rd match win of the season.
“I don’t feel the pressure because I don’t rank myself as one of the favorites to win this tournament,” Alcaraz said when discussing his title chances following his win. “Obviously if I play well, I have [the] level to win the tournament. But there are a lot more experienced players on grass. I don’t feel the pressure.”
Competing in his fourth grass-court event of the season, Struff raced out of the blocks, breaking Alcaraz in the third game to take control early. The German seemed to take the ball early as he dictated behind his forehand, firing 17 winners in the set to move ahead.
Alcaraz showcased his fighting spirit to respond in the second set, though, increasing his intensity and variety to pull Struff around and level. The German quickly regained his stride in the third set, winning 100 per cent (13/13) of points behind his first-serve to lead again.
With the fourth set moving to a tie-break, Struff looked on course for victory when he quickly took a 2/0 lead. However, Alcaraz refused to be beaten, finding a stunning pass to gain a foothold, before he increased the depth on his return to force a fifth set.
Fueled by momentum, Alcaraz continued to go on the attack in the decider and was rewarded with the decisive break in the ninth game before holding serve to win.
Struff was aiming to earn his second Top 10 win at a Grand Slam, having upset then-World No. 7 Andrey Rublev at Roland Garros in 2021. The World No. 155, who has reached the third round at Wimbledon twice, missed the European clay swing due to a right foot injury.
However, despite defeat, the German showed signs that he is returning to his best with his impressive performance against Alcaraz.