Safiullin stuns Alcaraz at Paris Masters

Published November 2, 2023
SPAIN’S Carlos Alcaraz eyes a forehand return to Roman Safiullin of Russia during their Paris Masters second-round match at the Accor Arena.—AFP
SPAIN’S Carlos Alcaraz eyes a forehand return to Roman Safiullin of Russia during their Paris Masters second-round match at the Accor Arena.—AFP

PARIS: World number two Carlos Alcaraz crashed to a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Russia’s Roman Safiullin in the second round at the Paris Masters on Tuesday.

The Wimbledon champion looked off the pace as he made his return to action after withdrawing from the Swiss Indoors championships last week due to injury, losing the first set despite earning an early break.

“He didn’t surprise me at all because I knew that he has been playing a great level these last few months, beating big guys, reaching finals,” said a disconsolate Alcarez. “I knew that he was going to play a high level.”The 20-year-old Spaniard seemed to recover as he again broke the feisty 45th-ranked Saffiullin’s serve early in the second set to take a 3-1 advantage.

But the 26-year-old Russ­ian kept his foot on the gas to earn the biggest win of his career.

The result was another blow to Alcaraz’s hopes of gain­ing ground on Novak Djokovic in the ATP rankings.

“I just didn’t feel well, you know, on the court,” Alcaraz said. “A lot of things to improve, a lot of things to practice.

“I think I didn’t move well. In the shots, I think I had a good quality of shots. But physically, in terms of movement, I have to improve a lot.”

However, much credit must go to Safiullin, who was relentless in getting over the line for a career-boosting win in what was his first meeting with the Spaniard.

The 26-year-old held his nerve under pressure from the Wimbledon champion to serve out for the win, despite facing several deuce points in the final game.

“Even if he’s not in the best shape it’s tough to beat him,” said Safiullin. “So, I’m really happy that I made it.”

Ninth seed Taylor Fritz’s hopes of an ATP Finals berth diminished as the American withdrew before his second round match against Daniel Altmaier with an abdominal injury.

The world number 10 will be out of the season-ending tournament should Den­mark’s sixth seed Holger Rune beat Dominic Thiem in his second round match.

German 10th seed Alexander Zverev rallied from a sloppy start to beat Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, moving closer to securing his spot at the ATP Finals in Turin.

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the 11th seed, also kept alive his Finals hopes by earning a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7(6) 6,-3 win over American Sebastian Korda.

Argentine Francisco Ceru­ndolo saved a match point and bounced back from a two-game deficit in the third set to beat home favourite Gael Monfils 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5.

Russia’s 16th seed Karen Khachanov advanced to the third round past Serbia’s Laslo Djere 6-4, 7-5 while fellow Russian Andrey Rublev had little problem beating Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4 6-3.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2023

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