RIO DE JANEIRO: World number two Carlos Alcaraz fought back from breaks in both sets and dominated the tiebreak to beat Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6 (7/0) in the quarter-finals of the ATP Rio Open on Friday.
The 19-year-old Spaniard recorded his third win in three matches against the 32-year-old Lajovic, including a quarter-final victory over the 80th-ranked Serbian in the quarter-finals of the Argentina Open last week.
Alcaraz went on to win that title to cement his comeback from a four-month injury layoff that saw him miss the Australian Open.
In Saturday’s semifinal, Alcaraz will face Chilean qualifier Nicolas Jarry, who defeated sixth seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).
Alcaraz is trying to defend the title that made him the youngest winner of an ATP 500 tournament last year.
Second seed Britain’s Cameron Norrie booked his semi-final with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Bolivia’s Hugo Delian.
Nori, trying to reach his third final this year, will face Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who beat compatriot Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Alcaraz improved his perfect record in 2023 to 7-0, but he had to figure some things out along the way.
Alcaraz hailed a dream return from injury following the triumph in Buenos Aires
“It was a very complicated game,” Alcaraz said. “Dusan has a great forehand, a great backhand, a great serve, very good shots, and today he showed it, gave a recital.
“But I was solid. In the end, I was very happy to solve those problems.”
Alcaraz trailed 2-4 in both sets, pulling away in the final four games of the first before finding himself in another battle in the second.
He belted 32 winners to Lajovic’s 13 and won 16 of 17 points in net.
But 25 unforced errors added to the difficulties that saw him drop early breaks in both sets.
In the second, he broke with a storming backhand winner to level the set at 4-4.
He led 40-0 in the 11th game only to surrender his serve and save a set point en route to a break in the next game that forced the tiebreaker.
“Those moments are where the very good players are different from the rest of the players and I try to play at my highest level,” Alcaraz said.
Alcaraz, whose five titles last year included the US Open and made him the youngest ever world number one, was dominant throughout the decider, taking his first match with a forehand winner.