Champion Alcaraz passes ‘test of fire’ to reach Madrid open last 16

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates victory at the end of the third round of the 2024 ATP Tour Madrid Open tournament tennis match against Brazil's Thiago Seyboth Wild at Caja Magica in Madrid on April 28, 2024. (Photograph: Thomas COEX / AFP)

Carlos Alcaraz passed a “test of fire” to breeze into the Madrid Open last 16 with a straight sets victory over Thiago Seyboth Wild on Sunday, demonstrating he is over his injury worries before the French Open.

The double defending champion came through 6-3, 6-3 and will face last year’s runner-up Jan-Lennard Struff in the next round after another impressive showing before adoring fans on home soil.

World number three Alcaraz, 20, missed a month prior to Madrid with a forearm issue but returned to crush Alexander Shevchenko in the second round.

Still wearing a protective sleeve on his right arm, he had far too much for Seyboth Wild, who had ousted 28th seed Lorenzo Musetti.

“Maybe today I was a bit nervous about how it would be, Thiago hits the ball so hard, I didn’t know how the forearm would hold up,” said Alcaraz on court.

“Today was the test of fire, no discomfort, feeling spectacular… from here, we’ll be getting better.”

Indian Wells champion Alcaraz broke for a 4-3 lead in the first set when Seyboth Wild blinked first and sent a forehand into the net.

The second seed sealed the set with another break when his Brazilian opponent double faulted.

Alcaraz stepped up a gear in the second set, winning 10 of the first 11 points and breaking in the second and fourth games as he raced into a 5-0 lead.

Seyboth Wild battled to a hold and a break to salvage some pride but Alcaraz triumphed on serve when the Brazilian went long.

“I was very comfortable on the court, moving, hitting the ball, as I always say finishing the game isn’t easy, it’s nerves,” added Alcaraz.

Germany’s Struff defeated Frenchman Ugo Humbert 7-5, 6-4.

Andrey Rublev came back from 5-0 down in a first set tie-break to beat home favourite Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (12/10), 6-4 in a nervy affair.

The world number eight saved five set points to stun his opponent, before a similarly hard-fought second set.

Rublev broke for a 5-4 lead with a shot which the Spaniard chose to leave as he thought it was long, but Hawk-Eye showed it was in by a whisker.

The Russian wrapped up his win with a forehand winner, his second win of the week after four straight defeats prior.

‘Very tough match’

Women’s world number four Elena Rybakina eased to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif to reach the last 16.

The Kazakh, who has a tour-leading three titles this season after triumphing in Stuttgart last week, broke twice in the first set to move 5-0 ahead on the Spanish clay.

Although Sherif battled harder in the second set, surviving four match points to hold for 5-4 down, Rybakina clinched the victory on serve at the Caja Magica.

“Despite the score, it was a very tough match,” said Rybakina, who also leads the tour with 28 wins.

“It was a lot of deuces and we both fought a lot — I’m really happy with the performance today.”

Rybakina will face teenager Sara Bejlek in the next round after the Czech defeated American Ashlyn Krueger 6-3, 6-1.

“I’ve never played against a player like this,” said the 18-year-old. “I will try my best and we’ll see how it will go tomorrow.”

Mirra Andreeva defeated Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 7-5, 6-1 to return to the last 16 for the second year running.

The 16-year-old Russian won 25 points to nine in the second set against the world number seven from the Czech Republic.