Alcaraz finds ‘solutions’ against Tommy Paul to reach Wimbledon semi-finals

Estimated read time 4 min read

Ever since he emerged on the Tour as a precocious teenager, Carlos Alcaraz has been compared to Rafael Nadal; for his tenacity, shot-making and attitude. On Tuesday, the Spaniard not only kept alive his hopes of a second straight Wimbledon title, he also showed that he shares another trait with his compatriot.

For a set and a bit, Tommy Paul, the American who won the title at Queen’s Club last month, matched and even had the better of Alcaraz. But like those select few who have been able to live with Nadal for a while only to fall away under the weight of the physical and mental contest, the sheer effort of keeping pace with the world No 3 proved to be too much. Gaining strength with each set, Alcaraz pulled away for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory and a place in the semi-finals.

The third seed finished with 36 winners, 19 of them on his forehand, the niggling forearm injury that dogged him for much of the first part of this year no longer a factor. Paul saved 19 of 27 break points but under the intense pressure coming from the other side, 52 forced errors and 51 unforced errors were too much to get the job done and Alcaraz moved a step closer to claiming back-to-back slams after his victory at Roland ­Garros last month.

“He has been playing great tennis on grass, he won Queen’s, he’s been doing great stuff and today was a really difficult match for me,” Alcaraz said. “The first set and the beginning of the second set it was kind of like I was playing on clay, big rallies, 10 or 15 shots every rally. I had to stay strong mentally but I knew it was a really long journey and a really long match and I’m happy I was able to find the solutions.”

Paul had won two of their four meetings and went into the match high on confidence after his Queen’s victory. As fast around the court as anyone on the men’s Tour, the 27-year-old ran down everything and ripped winners, some of them from the most unlikely positions, including one backhand from way behind the baseline that screamed past Alcaraz at the net.

Alcaraz broke first for 2-1 but Paul broke straight back and the rest of the first set was brutal, both men pulling the other all over the court, their athleticism tested to the limit. The 12th seed saved a string of break points and then snatched his chance, ­gaining the vital break in the 12th game to move ahead.

In his first Wimbledon quarter-final, Paul continued to give Alcaraz trouble, mixing aggression with a nice touch on the drop shot. When he broke to lead 2-0 in the second set, a few murmurs started to drift around No 1 Court, some fans wondering if they were about to see the demise of the champion. They should have known better. Lifting his game right on cue, Alcaraz broke back and then broke again in the seventh game as he levelled the match.

Carlos Alcaraz hits a backhandView image in fullscreen

Each game continued to be lung-busting, many of them going to deuce but the intensity finally began to hit Paul, his mistakes beginning to rise. After swapping early breaks, Alcaraz broke again for 2-1 and pinched a third break of the set as he took a two-sets-to-one lead.

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Trying to reach his second grand slam semi-final, Paul’s heart was still there but his legs and body were crying out for respite. There was still time for some outstanding shots; you couldn’t hit a drop volley better than Paul’s at 1-1, 15-40 but his forehand broke down under the relentless ­pressure, two errors handing Alcaraz the break for 2-1.

Paul produced a contender for shot of the day when, pushed outside the tramlines, he took one hand off the racket and flicked an outrageous backhand pass. But the Spaniard then produced a stunning point of his own to extend his advantage. Two games later, he did it again. Two breaks was an impossible deficit for Paul to recover and Alcaraz held to love with the help of a thunderbolt of a forehand. Shaking his head in disbelief at some more Alcaraz genius, Paul held to at least make Alcaraz serve it out, which he did.

Alcaraz will now meet Daniil Medvedev in a repeat of last year’s semi-final, after the Russian upset the world No 1 Jannik Sinner in five sets.


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