Carlos Alcaraz to battle Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic for Astana Open
Carlos Alcaraz will play his first ATP Tour match as World No 1 in the Astana Open first round where he initially drew dark horse Holger Rune before the Dane’s withdrawal.
Rune enjoyed a run to the championship match in Sofia last week before suffering a disappointing loss in the final and it seems he’s picked up a niggle.
There is little doubt that Rune had the self-belief to set out to topple the World No 1, having already earned big singles wins this season.
Rune has beaten three top ten players in 2022 but lost his only previous clash with a World No 1 when he went down to Novak Djokovic.
Alcaraz on the other hand owns a head-to-head win over Rune at the 2021 NextGen finals and is out to maintain his perfect record in ATP 500 tournaments this season.
He is now set to face lucky loser David Goffin in the first round.
The Spaniard is unbeaten at ATP 500 tournaments in 2022 having secured the Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona titles on clay.
Alcaraz has proven his all-court prowess (the jury may be out on his game on grass) and will look to add an indoor title to his impressive 2022 haul which includes a maiden Grand Slam won in New York and Masters titles from Madrid and Miami.
Of the two ATP 500 tournaments on the go this week the Astana Open in Kazakhstan looks to have drawn the more stacked field with former World No 1s Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic also touching down in Nur-Sultan.
Djokovic comes into the tournament out to continue his charge up the ATP Race to Turin standings, seemingly determined to reach the finals on the strength of his tour form despite only needing to remain the Top 20 of the Rankings by the time the Paris Masters concludes to secure a spot.
The 21-time Grand Slam winner comes into the tournament off the back of his third title of 2022.
Djokovic beat Marin Cilic in Tel Aviv to win a title on his return to the ATP Tour for the first time since his Wimbledon final triumph.
Alcaraz was last on court for a Davis Cup singles defeat to Felix Auger-Alliasime.
Daniil Medvedev is at the opposite end of the draw and makes his Astana Open debut against another Spaniard in Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Medvedev might meet Sofia Open champion Marc-Andrea Huesler or rising Finnish star Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round.
Djokovic meanwhile opens against Cristian Garin and is on a semi-final collision course with the Russian if things run in favour of the seeds.
Alcaraz may have had his first round opponent switched but he already knows that he will face Adrian Mannarino in the Round of 16 if he can down Goffin.
The World No 1 will not face a seeded player until at least the quarter-finals provided Andrey Rublev can win twice on his tournament debut.
Defending champion Kwon Soon-woo will not be present having understandably opted to enter the Japan Open with his home tournament having taken place last week in Seoul.
Another burgeoning rivalry might take centre stage in the semi-finals if Stefanos Tsitsipas can find form and Alcaraz keeps his ATP 500 streak rolling for 13 matches.
The favourites to meet Alcaraz in the championship match are Djokovic and Alcaraz, but all three men will need to overcome significant obstacles to set up these dream matches.
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