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Carlos Alcaraz to meet Jan-Lennard Struff in Madrid Open final

Carlos Alcaraz to meet Jan-Lennard Struff in Madrid Open final
© Reuters
Carlos Alcaraz will defend his Madrid Open title against Jan-Lennard Struff thanks to the pair's respective semi-final wins over Borna Coric and Aslan Karatsev.

Carlos Alcaraz will defend his Madrid Open crown against Jan-Lennard Struff after the pair clinched respective semi-final wins over Borna Coric and Aslan Karatsev.

Celebrating his 20th birthday in style, Alcaraz took one hour and 40 minutes to seal a 6-4 6-3 win over Croatia's Coric, before Struff beat Karatsev 4-6 6-3 6-4 to become the first-ever lucky loser to make a Masters 1000 final.

Having already asserted his dominance on clay with victories in Buenos Aires and Barcelona in 2023, Alcaraz was gifted two break points on a pair of Coric double faults in their opening game, but the Croatian saved both of them to come through a nervy hold.

After saving a break point of his own, Alcaraz's big hitting soon came to the fore as he broke in the fifth game, before posting at least three winners in each of his remaining service games to put one foot firmly in the final.

The US Open champion traded breaks with Coric in the third and fourth game of the second set, but the Croatian's resistance counted for nought, as Alcaraz won four of the final five games and witnessed Coric send a forehand long on match point to advance to his 13th ATP Tour final.

"Turning 20 like that is special, so I will enjoy the final here and of course I will try to make all of Spain happy," Alcaraz said on the court as he bids to return to the number one spot in the rankings.

Jan-Lennard Struff pictured on May 5, 2023© Reuters

"I don't think about the pressure here, I just think about playing a great game, getting good results. It's a really special place for me, I enjoy every second here, so that's all I think about."

Following Alcaraz's routine victory, Masters semi-final debutants Struff and Karatsev reunited after the latter had defeated his 33-year-old counterpart in the qualifiers, but Struff avenged that beating as a history-making lucky loser with a thrilling three-set win in two hours and 18 minutes.

A trio of early aces and break for a 3-1 lead would not be a sign of things to come for Struff, as Karatsev came storming back to string together a four-game winning streak against his dumbstruck opponent.

Struff was forced to save a set point in the ninth game as his serve began to let him down, allowing Karatsev to take the opening set, but the German came out a different beast in the second.

Struff prevailed in the first three games and dropped just two more points to ensure a third set, where Karatsev began on the front foot, but a leg injury soon began to hamper the world number 121 as Struff broke in the fifth game.

However, a determined Karatsev was digging in for a fight and remarkably saved four match points in game nine, but Struff served out the contest with aplomb to set up a third meeting with Alcaraz.

Prior to the men's showpiece event, world number one Iga Swiatek will tackle world number two Aryna Sabalenka for a shot at glory in the women's singles final on Saturday.

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