ROME—Carlos Alcaraz didn’t see this one coming. How could he have?
About to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, Alcaraz was pretty much pushed off the court at the Italian Open by 135th-ranked Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in the third round on Monday.
Alcaraz suffered his earliest defeat since October.
He’d won 30 of 32 matches this year and was on a 12-match winning streak on clay after consecutive titles in Barcelona and Madrid. He secured a return to the top spot next week by winning his opening match in Rome. But he was caught off guard by how Marozsan dictated with spectacular play all over the court, including drop shots that Alcaraz had no answer for.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable. He made me feel uncomfortable on court,” Alcaraz said. “He was aggressive all the time. He was playing inside the baseline all the time. It was tough for me to get into the match, into the rally. I made a lot of mistakes that I usually don’t make too much.”
The result means Alcaraz will go into the French Open — which starts in less than two weeks and where he will be the top seed — coming off a dispiriting defeat.
Making matters even more surprising was that this is the first time Marozsan is playing in the main draw of an ATP tournament.
“He surprise(d) me a lot. His level was really, really high,” Alcaraz said. “I’m sure he’s going to break the top 100 very, very soon.”
Marozsan posted his first victories over top-100 players in the first two rounds when he beat No. 67 Corentin Moutet and 32nd-seeded Jiri Lehecka.
“Everything was perfect today: The crowd, the weather, the court,” Marozsan said after stunning the packed stadium on Campo Centrale.
“I just try to do something special or winning a few games or maybe a set or something like this, and I just beat the world No. 1 — he’s our best in the sport.”
Alcaraz led 4-1 in the tiebreaker but Marozsan won six straight points to close it out.
“It’s amazing. I don’t know what happened during the points,” Marozsan said. “I just try to hit back every ball and try to do my best.”
Late in the second set, Alcaraz tried firing himself up by yelling “Vamos” every time he won a significant point. But Marozsan just kept coming, unleashing an 82 mph (132 kph) backhand winner up the line to conclude one point and winning several close exchanges at the net.
By the end, Marozan had twice as many winners as Alcaraz, 24 to 12, and far fewer unforced errors, 13 to 24.
“I couldn’t follow his level,” Alcaraz said. “He was at the same level the whole match. That is very, very difficult. He deserves the win. If he plays at that level, he’s going to surprise more than one (player).”
Marozsan will next face Borna Coric, who continued his solid form on clay by beating Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6 (3), 6-1. At the Madrid Open last week, Coric reached the semifinals before losing to Alcaraz.
Also, Monte Carlo Masters champion Andrey Rublev defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (8), 6-3 and will next play German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, who beat former French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Daniil Medvedev, who hadn’t won a match in three previous appearances at the Foro Italico, advanced by rallying past Bernabe Zapata Miralles 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.
“I’m playing my best tennis on clay now,” Medvedev said.
In women’s action, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina beat 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals and will next face two-time defending Rome champion Iga Swiatek or Donna Vekic, who played late.
Also, Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine rallied past 2016 runner-up Madison Keys 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
A few late men’s matches were suspended until Tuesday due to rain.
Lorenzo Musetti was up 5-7, 6-4, 2-1 and a break against Frances Tiafoe. Stefanos Tsitsipas won the first set against Lorenzo Sonego 6-3; and Alexander Zverev was leading J.J. Wolf 6-4, 3-3.
Image credits: AP