London, Jul 12 (EFE).- Spanish world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-4 victory Wednesday over fellow young gun Holger Rune.
In a battle of 20 year olds who were born just six days apart, both players managed to win their first six service games in their inaugural meeting at a Grand Slam event.
The pair took turns thrilling the Centre Court crowd in the opening set with their power, speed and athleticism, attributes that suggest a potential rivalry at the top of the sport for many years to come.
The match first started to turn in Alcaraz’s favor when he reeled off three straight points to give himself a 6-3 lead in the first-set tiebreaker.
Then on his first set point, the Spaniard answered a Rune serve-and-volley play with a potent backhand down-the-line winner before letting out a primal celebratory scream.
The second set also seemed to be headed to a tiebreaker when the sixth-seeded Dane showed his strong net skills by punching away a volley in the ninth game.
But Alcaraz stormed back in that game and earned his first service break of the match with another perfectly placed backhand down-the-line winner.
Although Rune’s athleticism made the Spaniard’s drop shot less effective than it is against other players, he still turned to that weapon in key moments of the match.
One such occasion was in the final game of the second set, when a delicate backhand drop volley by Alcaraz jerked Rune out of position and set up an easy volley winner into the open court.
That point gave the world No. 1 a 5-4, 40-0 lead, and he secured a commanding two-set advantage two points later when Rune struck a forehand return of serve over the baseline.
The Dane showed his competitive fire until the end, but Alcaraz seized control of the baseline rallies in the third set by pressuring his opponent’s backhand with pace.
After securing a break of serve in the sixth game, Alcaraz clinched a straight-set victory when Rune struck a forehand return of serve far over the baseline.
“It was tough. At the beginning I was really, really nervous playing the quarterfinal here in Wimbledon,” Alcaraz said in a post-match interview.
“Even more, playing against Rune, someone that is the same age as me, someone that is playing at a great level, it was tough to play with him.”
Next up for Alcaraz in Friday’s semifinals will be third-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, who trailed two sets to one before finally ending the fairy tale run of unseeded American Christopher Eubanks 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 on Wednesday.
In their second meeting earlier this year in the Indian Wells final, Alcaraz routed the Russian 6-3, 6-2.
The Spaniard used his drop shot to devastating effect in that match, countering Medvedev’s favored tactic of positioning himself far behind the baseline to neutralize his opponent’s first serve.
The players’ only meeting on grass came at Wimbledon two years ago. Although Medvedev won that match in three convincing sets, he is well aware of the great strides the Spaniard has made as a player since then.
In women’s quarterfinal action on Wednesday, sixth-seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur defeated Kazakh defending champion Elena Rybakina 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-1 in a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon final.
Jabeur had to bounce back after a disappointing end to the first set, when she squandered a set point on her own serve in the 12th game and then narrowly lost the tiebreaker.
She did so in style late in the second set with a series of attacking forehands and backhands that put her big-hitting opponent on the defensive.
Jabeur then took full control of the match in the third set by using her outstanding counter-punching on the backhand side.
That skill will be put to the test once again in Thursday’s semifinals when she squares off against arguably the most powerful player on the WTA Tour, second-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated 25th-seeded American Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 in Wednesday’s other women’s singles quarterfinal. EFE