After opening it Swimming Laguna Croatia Open Umag a campaign with a pair of comfortable straight sets wins, Carlos AlcarazThe title defense was put to a tough semi-final test on Saturday night at the ATP 250 event in Croatia.
The top seed won 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in an absorbing #NextGenATP battle against Giulio Zeppieri to reach the best-of-six final in 2022. Alcaraz overcame a nasty sprained right ankle in the second set before triumphing in a dramatic decider as Zeppieri battled cramp early on after leveling at 3-3 after three straight games.
“It’s amazing to be here in the final again,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “I enjoy playing here in Umag and I’m really happy with today’s victory.”
With the win, Alcaraz soared higher Stefanos Tsitsipas to No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings – allowing him to reach a new career high on Monday – and improve his record in Umag to 8-0. He will face another Italian, the second seed Jannik Sinner or qualifier Franco Agamemnon, in Sunday’s championship game. It will also be Alcaraz’s 100th match on tour and the 19-year-old was confident his ankle would be in good shape to compete.
“It’s good at this point,” Alcaraz said. “I’m not feeling very well at the moment. We’ll see tonight or tomorrow morning, but I’ll say I’ll be ready for the final.
“It would be amazing to win in my 100th game and of course it’s amazing to be No. 4 on Monday. It’s great for me, but now I’m just focused on the final.”
A close encounter in the Croatian heat saw some spectacular exchanges between Alcaraz and Zeppieri, with both crushing heavy balls from the baseline and enjoying great success in the return games. Alcaraz converted six of 15 break points and Zeppieri four of 13 as both players remained aggressive throughout.
After leveling and leveling in the deciding set, Zeppieri appeared to be caught up in the physical strain in Umag, where he played his fifth three-set match in qualifying and the main event. Alcaraz was clinical as he reeled off the three fights he needed to win in two hours and 56 minutes.
By that point, Zeppieri, roared on by a large crowd of Italian fans, had gone toe-to-toe with Alcaraz in a performance that belied the fact that he had not won an ATP Tour match before this week. Despite falling short in Saturday’s semi-finals, the 20-year-old in Umag moves the Italian up 33 places to 135th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.