Misc Tennis

Carlos Alcaraz, Aryna Sabalenka win opening matches at Madrid Open

Carlos Alcaraz, Aryna Sabalenka win opening matches at Madrid Open

MADRID — Carlos Alcaraz didn’t need to put his tender right arm to the test while easing to victory in his opening match at the Madrid Open on Friday.

The two-time defending champion was playing for the first time in nearly a month after his injured arm ruled him out of Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And after doubting this week he would be good to go in Spain’s capital, Alcaraz admitted he could afford to hold back a little in a 6-2, 6-1 win over Alexander Shevchenko.

“I didn’t hit my forehand 100 percent. I hit it softer than I used to hit it, but I think it helped me, you know, to, let’s say, stay relaxed,” Alcaraz said. “But the first thing that I was thinking about when I was stepping on the court is to stay healthy.

“I was really happy to not feel anything in the forearm, and after that I could increase my intensity a bit. It was great for me this match.”

Defending women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka faced tougher resistance in her opening match while beating Magda Linette 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 on the Caja Magica clay.

This was Alcaraz’s first match since the Miami Open quarterfinals nearly one month ago. Madrid is the Spaniard’s first appearance on the European clay court swing — he struggled in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro in February — as he aims to win his first French Open title next month.

“Right now I’m thinking to be better or get better every day, and I’m thinking to be closer to my 100 percent here in Madrid.” the two-time major champion said. “Let’s see how it’s going to be the next few weeks. But the main thing is to be ready for next tournament and obviously to Roland Garros.”

In Madrid, the third-ranked Alcaraz is seeded second behind Jannik Sinner and both enjoyed first-round byes.

Alcaraz played with a compression sleeve on his right arm from his wrist up past his elbow. But he looked pretty much like the same aggressive player who has dominated here for the past two years and given Spanish tennis fans hope there is life after Rafael Nadal.

Alcaraz broke Shevchenko’s serve four times and will next face Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil.

Seyboth Wild upset Daniil Medvedev at last year’s French Open and should offer a stiffer challenge to Alcaraz in the round of 32.

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev, another two-time Madrid champion, defeated Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2 and will face Denis Shapovalov next.

Seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating Facundo Bagnis 6-1, 6-4. Rublev’s last win came at Indian…

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