Carlos Alcaraz marks new season with cautious Australian Open victory

Men’s round-up: Holger Rune and Casper Ruud also advance to second round

Carlos Alcaraz began his pursuit of a first Australian Open title with a solid performance as he defeated Richard Gasquet 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round in Melbourne.

Alcaraz had opted not to contest a warm-up tournament, meaning the victory is his first official match since his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-final of the ATP Finals last year. It is also the Spaniard’s first match at the Australian Open since 2022, when he was ranked outside the Top 30 and lost in the third round, as he was forced to withdraw from last year’s event with injury.

As he tried to shake off the rust in his first match of the season, Alcaraz was understandably cautious in the opening set against the 37-year-old Gasquet who backed up strong serving with consistent aggression. In the decisive moments of the first set tie-break, though, Alcaraz took control and never looked back.

“Today I felt really well playing here,” said Alcaraz. “Just trying to be better. I think in the first set I struggled a little bit. Richard was playing well as well, but every set I’ve been playing better and better. At the end I think I played at quite a good level.”


Since his remarkable performance to defeat Djokovic and win his first Wimbledon title last year, Alcaraz’s form has cooled. The 20-year-old seemed to struggle with the length of the season and he looked fatigued in the final months of the year. He can sometimes play too impulsively and lack discipline in his shot-making, a quality that will likely improve with greater experience. Still, Alcaraz remains Djokovic’s top contender here and he will face Lorenzo Sonego of Italy in the second round.

Meanwhile, Holger Rune, the eighth seed, overcame a tight battle against Yoshihito Nishioka, advancing to the second round with a tough 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. The 11th seed, Casper Ruud, had no such problems, dismantling Albert Ramos-Viñolas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

For Gasquet, one of the constant figures in men’s tennis over the past two decades and the owner of one of the most iconic backhands in the 21st century, this could well be his last appearance in Australia.

The first set demonstrated he is still capable of playing great tennis but he is now ranked No 131, a ranking that will get him into very few top-level events. Gasquet has said that he is uninterested in dropping down into the lower ATP events and trying to rebuild his ranking at his age, meaning the end could well be near.