Madrid: World No 2 and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday set up a Madrid Open last 16 duel with Alexander Zverev, the German rival who handed him a heartbreaking, reality-check defeat at Roland Garros last year.
Alcaraz defeated Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-2, 7-5 in the Madrid third round as he continues his bid to win a 10th tour title before his 20th birthday.
The Spanish crowd-pleaser was briefly troubled when 31-year-old Dimitrov broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set.
However, that merely delayed the inevitable as Alcaraz wrapped up victory in 90 minutes, making just four unforced errors. It was his 25th win of 2023 against just two losses and a 15th win on clay.
The 19-year-old swept past Zverev in the Madrid final in 2022 for the loss of just four games.
However, just weeks later, the German claimed a four-set victory in the French Open quarterfinals. That was Zverev’s third win in the pair’s four meetings.
Two-time Madrid champion Zverev needed just 56 minutes earlier Sunday to dispose of France’s Hugo Grenier 6-1, 6-0 on the back of six breaks of serve and 26 winners.
“With Carlos it will be a matchup people will look forward to,” said 16th-ranked Zverev. “We played in the final here last year, played a massive match at Roland Garros before I got injured (in the semi-final against Rafael Nadal).”
World No 1 Iga Swiatek claimed she had endured a “tricky” afternoon despite easing to a straight-set win over American left-hander Bernarda Pera to reach the last 16 of the women’s tournament in the Spanish capital.
Swiatek, warming up for the defence of her French Open title, claimed a 6-3, 6-2 win for a sixth consecutive victory on clay this season.
Getting back into rhythm
“I wouldn’t say it was easy. Every match is tricky here,” Swiatek said after her 75-minute outing.
“I’m happy that I’m getting my rhythm. Playing against a lefty is never easy … but I’m pretty happy that I was disciplined and focused.”
Swiatek next faces either Chinese 22nd seed Zheng Qinwen, who was the only player to take a set off her at Roland Garros last year, or 16th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Also progressing to the fourth round was world No 3 Jessica Pegula, who clinched a gruelling 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) victory over Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.
Pegula, 29, made the final in Madrid in 2022 where she lost to Ons Jabeur. She will now tackle Italy’s Martina Trevisan on Monday for a quarter-final spot.
Later Sunday, world No 7 Holger Rune, who turned 20 on Saturday, faces Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Rune, making his tournament debut this year, had to save a match point in the last round against Alexander Bublik.