Carlos Alcaraz started his quest for his first Australian Open championship with a strong showing, defeating Richard Gasquet 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the second round in Melbourne.
Alcaraz chose not to participate in a pre-tournament, making this win his first official match since his defeat against Novak Djokovic in the semi-final of the ATP Finals in 2020. This is also his first appearance at the Australian Open since 2022, when he was ranked below the Top 30 and eliminated in the third round due to injury.
In his initial match of the season, Alcaraz was cautious due to lack of practice. His opponent, the 37-year-old Gasquet, utilized powerful serves and consistent aggression. However, Alcaraz managed to take control during the crucial moments of the first set tie-break and maintained his lead until the end.
Alcaraz expressed his satisfaction with his performance today, stating that he was focused on improving. While he had some difficulties in the first set and Richard also played well, Alcaraz believes that he gradually played better as the match went on and was ultimately pleased with his level of play.
After his impressive victory against Djokovic and securing his first Wimbledon championship in the previous year, Alcaraz’s performance has declined. The 20-year-old appeared to struggle with the duration of the season and showed signs of fatigue in the later months. He may occasionally display impulsive play and a lack of control in his shots, but this is expected to improve with more experience. Despite this, Alcaraz remains a strong opponent for Djokovic and will be facing Lorenzo Sonego from Italy in the second round.
In the meantime, Holger Rune, who was seeded eighth, won a close match against Yoshihito Nishioka and moved on to the second round with a challenging score of 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. On the other hand, the 11th seed, Casper Ruud, had an easy time defeating Albert Ramos-Viñolas with a score of 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
Gasquet, a long-standing presence in men’s tennis for the past 20 years and known for his iconic backhand, may be making his final appearance in Australia. Although he showed in the first set that he is still capable of playing at a high level, his current ranking at No 131 means he will not have access to many top-tier tournaments. Gasquet has stated that he has no interest in participating in lower-level ATP events to improve his ranking at his age, suggesting that retirement may be on the horizon.