Jannik Sinner exposes Carlos Alcaraz’s big weakness with a stunning win in China
Jannik Sinner is one of the few players who are believed to have the winning formula to beat Carlos Alcaraz and he confirmed that once again with a stunning win in the China Open semi-finals.
In a rivalry that looks certain to be replayed time and again over the next decade and more, Sinner moved one clear in his head-to-head clashes with Wimbledon champion Alcaraz as he notched up a 7-6(4) 6-1 win in Beijing.
The pair were tied at three wins each from their first six meetings, including a US Open quarter-final that was arguably the best contest of last year.
The first set in Beijing featured a succession of brilliant, hard-hitting rallies, with 22-year-old Italian Sinner twice coming from a break down to take it on a tie-break.
And Alcaraz, 20, was unable to match his young rival in the second set, the errors beginning to flow in a convincing victory for Sinner, who struggled with sickness during his quarter-final on Monday.
“Every match against him is very tough,” said the Italian. “We always show great respect.
“When we play against each other we try to stay on our limits and today I played a little bit better in the important moments.
“Today it was my day and let’s see in the next meeting what’s coming. I always enjoy to play against him.
“The execution of what we tried to do went very, very well. I won’t say what we talked about, but it was all about being aggressive.
“When he has a lot of time, he is very difficult to play against, so we both get to know each other a bit better now. That can make it easier and also difficult in other ways.”
Sinner was the dominant player for much of the opening set, yet Alcaraz’s remarkable ability to get the ball back from seemingly impossible positions continued to keep him in points and games.
The Chinese crowd were gasping with delight as they watched Alcaraz’s forehand fire some stinging winners, but it was also the source of his biggest frustration.
The young Spaniard knows he has the beating of virtually everyone on the ATP Tour, but it is clear that Sinner’s brand of aggressive tennis gives him real concern.
Alcaraz let out screams of frustration in the first set and became increasingly agitated as he was rocked onto the back foot and was increasingly relying on Sinner missing.
That sensation is unusual for a player who tends to take the racket out of his opponent’s hand with his power hitting from the back of the court and his variety with drop shots and his impressive volleying ability.
Yet not for the first time, Sinner had more firepower than Alcaraz from the back of the court and that harsh reality unsettled a rival who is not used to being bullied into submission.
In the end, Alcaraz looked beaten and lacking ideas as he went for increasingly ambitious and unlikely shots that confirmed Sinner had too much for him once again.
Alcaraz has achieved much more than Sinner in the early phases of their promising careers, but this match suggested the two-time Wimbledon champion will not have it all his own way when Novak Djokovic’s days at the top of the game come to an end.
Rushing Alcaraz and attacking his potent forehand is a tactic that works for Sinner against Alcaraz and while you need to be a master of the art to use that plan against Alcaraz, it is a method more players appear to be adopting.
In both his US Open semi-final defeat against Daniil Medvedev and in this loss against SInner, Alcaraz faded badly once his biggest weapons were taken away from him and that will alert the rest of the ATP Tour to his vulnerabilities if opponents can get on top of him.
Such is the aura Alcaraz brings onto the court that it is tough to get him onto the back foot, but Medvedev and Sinner have shown what is possible over the last month.
In the final in Beijing, Sinner will take on second seed Medvedev, who again showed his hard-court prowess in a 6-4 6-3 win against Alexander Zverev.
Meanwhile, Alcaraz will head into the Shanghai Masters as the top seed, as he continues his effort to knock Novak Djokovic off the top of the ATP rankings.
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