Champions Alcaraz and Sabalenka through in Madrid Open

Champions Alcaraz and Sabalenka through in Madrid Open


Carlos Alcaraz registered a convincing 6-2, 6-1 win over Alexander Shevchenko.

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MADRID (AFP) – Defending Madrid Open champions Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka both triumphed in their opening clashes in the Spanish capital on Friday to reach the third round.

Alcaraz returned after a month out to begin his double defence with a convincing 6-2, 6-1 win over Alexander Shevchenko, while Sabalenka survived a tense three-set tussle against the in-form Magda Linette.

Men's world number three Alcaraz shone on home clay after a forearm problem led to his withdrawals from the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.

"It's been quite a tough month for me, with the uncertainty over when I'd be back," said Alcaraz.

"The priority today was to see how I felt, in a difficult match.

"The feelings were very good, and I think I played at a very good level despite coming without rhythm... I am very happy and it's a pleasure to play here in Madrid again."

Wearing a protective sleeve on his right arm, two-time Grand Slam winner Alcaraz quickly dispelled any doubts after his time out by flying out of the blocks in the first set with a break.

The 20-year-old Spaniard was as exciting as ever, frequently on the attack, and secured a second break in the fifth game for a 4-1 lead.

Indian Wells winner Alcaraz hit the net with a drop shot to let the Kazakhstani back in but broke again himself for a 5-2 advantage which he served out.

Alcaraz pulled off two second set breaks for a 3-0 lead but again allowed his 23-year-old opponent to cut the deficit before striking back with a third break, which he consolidated for 5-1.

The 2022 and 2023 Madrid winner and second seed wrapped up his victory in little over an hour with another break when Shevchenko sent a forehand long.

Alcaraz will face Thiago Seyboth Wild in the third round after the Brazilian surprised Lorenzo Musetti 6-4, 6-4.

Andrey Rublev ended a four-match losing streak with a straightforward 6-1, 6-4 win over Facundo Bagnis.

"It feels really great after a while to start with a win and I'm happy with my performance," said Rublev, who lost his temper and obliterated his racquet after a first round exit in Barcelona.

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz hit nine aces as he powered past Briton Jack Draper 6-1, 7-5.


In the women's draw Sabalenka edged the wily Linette 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The Australian Open winner has struggled since her triumph in Melbourne and her Polish opponent fought well in the two-hour nine minute contest.

Big-hitter Sabalenka, ranked second in the world, edged the first set but struggled in the second as Linette broke to love and then consolidated for a 4-1 lead.

The 32-year-old then carved out three break points in the sixth game but although she could not take them, eventually steered the match to a deciding third set.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Sabalenka saved three break points to stay on serve and then found a net cord winner to break herself for a 5-3 lead.

Sabalenka, 25, wrapped up her narrow victory over the world number 48 by smashing down an ace and will face Katie Boulter or Robin Montgomery in the third round.

"I think in that second set she just put a little extra pressure on my serve, and I just didn't handle my emotions well," said Sabalenka.

"We went to a third set, and I'm just happy that I was able to close this match with a win."

Elena Rybakina eased past Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-3.

The Kazakhstani, ranked fourth in the world and with a tour-leading three titles this season, continued her good form after triumphing in Stuttgart last week.

Rybakina faces Egyptian Mayar Sherif in the next round after she surprised Stuttgart runner-up Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 7-5.

Chinese fifth seed Zheng Qinwen retired with a thigh injury from her match against Yulia Putintseva, who had taken a 7-5, 2-0 lead.