Alcaraz v Daniel: Things we learned

The world No.1 needed four sets to move into the third round for a third successive season

Carlos Alcaraz, 2e tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Cédric Lecocq / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

He had his back against the wall at times, but world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz emerged relatively unscathed from Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The top seed denied world No.112 Taro Daniel 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday to remain undefeated in eight Grand Slam matches against opponents ranked outside the top 100.

Two years ago, Alcaraz and the world No.112 were embroiled in a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 battle in the Oeiras Challenger in Portugal. Since winning that duel, Alcaraz has risen to the very top and showed why on Wednesday.

THE ticket in town

Watching Alcaraz is fast becoming a 'bucket list' item in world sport - the top seed is the headline act driving the men's game into a new era following the ultra-dominant 'Big Three' gladiators.

Fans of all ages were queuing for seats to watch the Spaniard in action on the big screen at the Jardins des Mousquetaires; he appeals to a wide demographic and his tennis justifies it.

At 5-0 in the third set, Alcaraz bolstered the highlight reel, trading tweeners with Daniel before clipping in a trademark backhand drop shot. The opponents both cracked a smile: Alcaraz is simply Box Office whatever the score.

Another mid-match lapse

On Monday, the top seed raced out of the blocks with a hot-shot laden first set against Flavio Cobolli. In just 26 minutes the Spaniard was 6-0 up, and blazed through the first eight games.

"I felt I couldn't lose a game at the start of the match," he said. "I felt invincible."

However, the Italian qualifier grew into the match and made it extremely tricky for Alcaraz to close out.

Fast forward to Wednesday and the No.1 seed once again accelerated off the grid. Even the elements couldn’t stop him arrowing forehand winners and dinking in deft drop shots for fun, despite the swirling wind.

But with the first set in the bag, Alcaraz played a loose game, allowing Daniel to clinch a collection of net points to snatch away an immediate break. The Japanese maintained that advantage to level up.

In the second week with title rivals circling, Alcaraz won't want to surrender any sharp starts.

Positive numbers

Alcaraz is much complimented on his all-court capabilities. Even so, facing Daniel the 20-year-old had fluctuations in accuracy and execution.

He finished with a ratio of 47 winners to 36 unforced errors in blustery weather conditions. His net play was simply exquisite, securing 20 out of 29 points when moving up the court. He'll need those to keep those ratios up if he's to dismiss No.26 seed Denis Shapovalov in the last 32.

Carlos Alcaraz, second round, Roland Garros 2023© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Language not a barrier 

The top seed continues to improve his English and connect more with his fans worldwide.

During his on-court interview conducted by fellow-Spaniard Alex Corretja, Alcaraz thought they'd be chatting in their national language. Not quite.

"It makes me feel weird talking to you in English," joked Alcaraz. "Taro played great, he's a really tough player and continues to win matches against great players. The conditions with the wind were really, really tough.

"We're here on Philippe-Chatrier, you simply have to adjust your game as best you can. I was really focused in every shot. I played a great level even in the wind."

Regardless of competing on Court Suzanne-Lenglen or Court Philippe-Chatrier, the 2022 quarter-finalist is feeding off the fan support.

"It's amazing to play here. I've always wanted to play well in Paris, at Roland-Garros. I feel the support from the very first day. I feel all the energy, it's tough to describe the crowd."

Corretja congratulated his compatriot on his linguistic skills prompting Alcaraz to woop in celebration.

The 20-year-old finished with a smooth move, signing the on-court broadcast camera with 'J'aime Paris'. Paris loves you too, Carlitos!