Men's qualifying Day 1: Alcaraz notches Grand Slam first

  • Matt Trollope

Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz continued his impressive rise by winning his first Grand Slam qualifying match at the Australian Open.

The 17-year-old recovered to beat Slovak Filip Horansky 5-7 6-1 6-4 to reach the second round of the AO qualifying event, being held in 2021 in Doha, Qatar. 

Also progressing on Sunday were German talent Dustin Brown, Swiss No.15 seed Henri Laaksonen, and former world No.12 Viktor Troicki. 

However, highly rated Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti, the 13th seed, was upstaged by Dutchman Botic Van De Zandschulp 3-6 6-1 6-4. 

Alcaraz soared in the rankings in 2020, improving from 490th to a peak of No.136 in October after winning 39 of his 46 matches.

The teenager debuted in Grand Slam qualifying at Roland Garros, where he held match points before succumbing to Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic.

Alcaraz revealed that experience had been a valuable one.

"I was very nervous (then). In the first set (today) I was really nervous also,” he admitted. 

“When I lost the first set, in the second I start to play more aggressive than the first one, and, well, I did my routines, and I think I played a really good match. Very happy.”

Seeded No.21 in Doha, Alcaraz next plays Russia’s Evgeny Karlovskiy for a place in the final round of qualifying.

He said he takes plenty of momentum into the new year after his excellent 2020 season.

"I did a very good pre-season. So I'm very confident now,” said Alcaraz, who is coached by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“Last year I start the season very very well, and now I'm confident with the start of this new season.”

Troicki pushing for top-100 return

At the opposite end of the career and age spectrum Troicki, twice Alcaraz’s age at 34 years.

The Serb, who like the Spaniard recovered from a set down to win his first-round match on Sunday, revealed that he would consider retirement if he did not return to the world’s top 100 this year.

Troicki currently sits at No.202 after a wretched run with injuries dating back to 2018.

"Once they announced that the qualifying was going to be played in Doha, I arranged to ... go to Dubai. I had plenty of practice (there), at least it's close to here. I had enough time to prepare well,” said Troicki, who beat No.23 seed Jurij Rodionov 2-6 6-2 6-1.

“I also practised in Belgrade for three weeks. It was a pretty good camp in Belgrade, Novak (Djokovic) oragnised it for a bunch of players, including me, like a pre-season camp for practice, so it was really good preparation. 

“So I feel I'm ready for the start of the new season, and I'll try my best to come back – that's my goal. Give it one last push; I'm really trying to get back to top 100. 

“If it works out, great. If it doesn't, then I'll think about my retirement, probably.”

In other results on Sunday, No.5 seed Taro Daniel was a three-set winner over Dominican Roberto Cid Subervi while Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata ousted Christopher Eubanks 6-2 6-3.