Alcaraz, Rune and Swiatek keep hold of gold

It was a captivating week as a collection of champions truly laid down their marker for clay court supremacy.

Carlos Alcaraz / Titre Barcelone 2023©Panoramic
 - Alex Sharp

It's just over a month until the world's best convene on the pristine courts at Roland-Garros.

Already plenty of players are dazzling in clay duels across Europe, hoping to peak in Paris. Let's catch up with some key headlines from over the weekend.

King Carlos reigns in Spain

The Barcelona Open is a cherished tournament on the calendar for Spaniards. The locals are certainly cherishing their latest hero.

Carlos Alcaraz continues to elevate his game to unimaginable levels. The 19-year-old hit hot shots for fun to win 10 out of 10 sets to retain an ATP title for the first time.

It was pure entertainment, pure domination. 

"It is incredible," stated the world No.2, after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

"To feel this energy and lift the trophy in Barcelona in front of my family and friends, and most members of my team are here as well. Playing this level and to lift the trophy in front of them is a good feeling for me."

The trademark, deft drop shots, the surges to the net, it's all done with a big grin. Alcaraz collected his ninth career title with a real spring in his step.

"Me and my team were talking before the match about staying relaxed,” continued the US Open champion, moving to 23-2 this season off the back of three titles.

“To want to play the tough moments. Staying relaxed is the most important part for me. To forget the mistakes, everything and be myself on court. Not to think about all the people watching, but just me, the court, the racket and the final."

The exquisite tennis and composure from the Spaniard were aptly summarised by Tsitsipas during the sun-kissed trophy presentation.

"I had the opportunity to see you a few years ago," said the Greek. "Some of us who were on tour earlier were fascinated by your tennis. We see you as an example even though we’re older than you. We see your achievements as something that will push us to do better."

No.13 for supreme Swiatek

Just like Alcaraz, World No.1 Iga Swiatek posted a 6-3, 6-4 scoreline to successfully defend a title.

The Pole, in the first WTA clay final showdown between the world's top two since Serena Williams ousted Maria Sharapova at Roland-Garros 2013, dismissed Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka to capture a 13th career title. 

Just like Alcaraz, the defence was staggering, the power play was enthralling. The 21-year-old defied Zheng Qinwen, recovered from a set deficit to Karolina Pliskova and advanced when Ons Jabeur unfortunately retired injured at 3-0 in their semi-final.

The three-time major winner was away from the competition cauldron for just 45 days with a rib injury. That was quickly forgotten in Stuttgart following a seamless return.

"I wanted to win really, really hard, but I knew that I can't really focus on that and just I have to keep doing my job as I did on previous matches," said reigning Roland-Garros champion Swiatek.

"I'm pretty happy that I could kind of have good mentality and just focus on what I want to do tennis-wise."

Once again both Swiatek and Sabalenka turned heads with their next-level tennis, prompting WTA legend Chris Evert to tweet; "The Swiatek, Sabalenka match has everything! Power, movement, intensity… great example of being in the moment."

Iga up at 5-2 in their rivalry, perhaps they could meet again on the Road to Roland-Garros…

Lajovic rises to the occasion

Hats off to Dusan Lajovic.

The Serbian executed his trademark single-handed backhand along with some astonishing reflex shots to pull off two career-defining victories.

The new world No.40 hailed his "best ever" win to prevail 6-4, 7-6(6) past his compatriot and world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the Srpska Open quarter-finals.

In the middle was a three hour epic with close friend Miomir Kecmanovic, before the 32-year-old halted Monte Carlo Masters champion Andrey Rublev's eight match winning streak 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the trophy shootout.

"The last time I was in a final was four years ago and I have been through a lot since then, lots of ups and downs," said Lajovic, lifting his second title after lifting the trophy at Umag 2019.

"This was probably the most unexpected thing for me for this week. But on the other side I still believed in myself, even though I did not have the best last year. This victory means a lot. I am thrilled and overwhelmed to win an ATP title."

Rune a machine in Munich

If you've managed to catch a glimpse of Holger Rune, you'll have quickly learnt that the Danish teenager never gives up.

His ferocious fighting spirit has taken the 19-year-old to Rolex Paris Masters glory and catapulted him into the Top 10. Now, the world No.7 has defended his Munich Open crown.

5-2 down in the final set decider against Botic van de Zandschulp, Rune clawed his way back, erasing four championship points along the way to lift his fourth career title. 

"I was feeling really exhausted but I was fighting until the end and I tried everything I could to come back into the match," Rune said following the 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(3) thriller. 

"I think for the crowd it was the perfect final. We really pushed each other to the limit and I am super happy I defended the title today."