Alcaraz v Korda: Things we learned

The 19-year-old played like a seasoned veteran to book a place in the second week

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Stephanie Livaudais

World No.6 Carlos Alcaraz showed the full range of his prodigious talent on Thursday night, reinforcing his status as Roland-Garros favourite as he charged into the fourth round for the first time.

Up against Sebastian Korda, the only player who has defeated him on clay this season, Alcaraz was clinical as he claimed his revenge with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Here’s what we learned from Alcaraz’s statement third-round win on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Generation now

Before the tournament even began, all eyes were focused on this fascinating section of the men’s draw, and for good reason.

After years of waiting for an heir to the Big Three’s throne, suddenly a whole slew of them were emerging all at once. 

While Alcaraz is firmly on the vanguard of the next generation, Korda isn’t too far behind him. Already an ATP titlist, Korda arrived in Paris at a career high No. 30 in the rankings and seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time.

But Alcaraz has been on a whole other level than his age-mates this year, and his masterful performance proved exactly why.

Sublime touch, perfectly balanced footwork and rock-solid hitting from the baseline set Alcaraz apart over two hours and seven minutes on Chatrier.

Korda on the cusp

But let’s also give some credit to the American, who was hanging tough with Alcaraz for the better part of the match.

Korda is one of the few players who can claim a win over Alcaraz in 2022, and the only one to do so on the terre battue after a 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 6-3 win in Monte-Carlo. That win had split their head-to-head, avenging Korda’s loss in the final of the 2021 ATP Next Gen Finals. 

For many stretches of the opening two sets, it seemed like a Korda breakthrough was just one point or one shot away.

He met Alcaraz blow for blow – and winner for winner, as both players racked up 23 of them by the end of the match – but every time the American created an opening, Alcaraz was there to slam the door shut.

Sebastian Korda, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Breaking points

Part of what makes Alcaraz such a threat is that there are very few weaknesses in his game. But across two rounds at Roland-Garros, a concerning pattern started to emerge.

Up against Juan Ignacio Londero in the first round, Alcaraz generated 12 break opportunities, and converted six of them en route to a comfortable win.

In the second round, he had 31 chances to break Albert Ramos Vinolas and capitalised on just eight of them. It was a decidedly less comfortable win for Alcaraz, who had to save a match point to close out his countryman 6-1, 6-7(7), 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4.

Could it be that Alcaraz was actually starting to crack under pressure?

Not so fast, Alcaraz seemed to say on Chatrier tonight.

While Korda also saved the bulk of break points he faced tonight, 11 of 15, he was under constant pressure from the Spaniard throughout.

Alcaraz stayed calm to find a way to break through, and he also defended his own serve to keep Korda on the back foot, saving all five of the break points he faced.

The Carlitos legend grows

With his wins in Barcelona and Madrid in the build-up to Roland-Garros, Alcaraz showed that he can turn up the intensity during high-stakes moments.

A nearly 100 mph forehand from Alcaraz set the tone of the match, as he converted his first break point in the opening set. And in the second set, he returned Korda’s drop shot with an even better one of his own to line up another break chance, before a sizzling forehand down the line gave him the 3-2 lead.

In the third, he reeled off the last five games in a row to close out the victory in just over two hours to become the youngest man to reach the fourth round in Paris since Novak Djokovic in 2006.

“It doesn't matter that if I am losing, winning, tough moment, tough match, I keep my style the whole match,” Alcaraz told press afterward.

Khachanov next

Having found his footing at Roland-Garros, Alcaraz is into the fourth round at a Grand Slam for just the second time, and first in Paris.

He will look to extend his winning streak to 13 in a row when he takes on No. 21 seed Karen Khachanov next.

“I have just practice with him just once, but I watch other matches from him, so I know that it's going to be a tough match,” Alcaraz said. “But at the same time as well he's a tough opponent and I like those matches.”

The Russian defeated No.10 seed Cameron Norrie 6-2, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to their first meeting.

Karen Khachanov, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Philippe Montigny/FFT