Alcaraz outlines alarming problem he must fix in verdict of Djokovic fight

Carlos Alcaraz confessed that he had a new issue with his game after crashing out of the Shanghai Masters on Wednesday. The Spaniard has been vocal about his hopes of fighting to get the world No 1 ranking back from Novak Djokovic but “lost a lot of opportunities” with his defeats during the Asian swing. Alcaraz is now hoping to fix his problems before heading to Basel – his last tournament without Djokovic in the draw before the 36-year-old makes his return.

Alcaraz crashed out of Shanghai in the round of 16 as an inspired Grigor Dimitrov came from a set down to stun the top seed 5-7 6-2 6-4. It marked his earliest defeat since the Rome Masters in May. And it was another disappointing result for the 20-year-old in his first-ever Asian swing after his loss to Jannik Sinner in last week’s China Open semi-final.

With Djokovic skipping the Asian swing to take a short break, the world No 2 had a chance to make up some vital ranking points in an effort to reclaim the top spot by the end of the year. But Alcaraz confessed that he lost a lot of opportunities with his early exits as he pinpointed a worrying problem that arose after he won the first set against Dimitrov.

Asked what he had to work on in his game, Alcaraz said: “Start better the second set. I think that’s a point that it’s tough for me.” The Spaniard was 3-5 down in the opening set but stormed back to win four games in a row to take it. 

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But he couldn’t keep that intensity up after pulling off an escape. The 12-time title winner continued:  “You know, after the first set, when I win the first set, more or less, it’s tough for me to keep the focus at the beginning of the second set. I’ll work on a few mistakes that, in certain moments, that I, you know, I have to put it in, and I didn’t. Those are the points that I have to work on.”

Alcaraz still has his eye on the prize when it comes to his quest to return to No 1 but he knew it would be hard after losing early in Shanghai. “Well, this loss I needed to be a little bit farther. It’s going to be tougher, if I want to be No 1. I have a few tournaments ahead, so I’ll try to do my best. I’ll try to, you know, win them, if I want to have a chance to end the year as No 1. I don’t know, but right now I lose a lot of opportunities to make it,” he added.

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The 20-year-old now has three tournaments left for the season – the Swiss Indoors Basel, the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals. With Djokovic returning in Paris, it means that the ATP 500 event in Basel will be Alcaraz’s last chance to make up some points without his rival in the way.

And the two-time Grand Slam champion is already keen to fix some of his problems from the Asian swing ahead of the final stretch. “I think I’m playing great tennis,” he said. “Even if I didn’t make the quarter-final or losing in the semi-final, I think I’m playing great tennis. So I have to practice 100 per cent in these weeks before Basel, that’s the next tournament for me, so I’ll try to make my best in that tournament.”

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