Seventh seed Carlos Alcaraz rallied from a set down for just the second time in his ATP Tour career to take down Lucas Pouille on Tuesday and make a winning start at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag.
In his first outing as a seeded player at a tour-level event, the #NextGenATP Spaniard was overpowered in the first set by Pouille, a former Top 10 player currently No. 103 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. But the 18-year-old raised his level and came back in the second and third sets to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“I don’t feel different being a seed, because I still come to these tournaments with the goal of growing and playing these kinds of matches,” Alcaraz said. “In the end, it’s the matches that count and give you experience and that you learn from. I come to these tournaments to learn from the really great players.”
Alcaraz, who sits one spot away from his career-high World No. 72 ranking, won 70 per cent (35/50) of his first-serve points and broke the Frenchman three times en route to victory. He improved to 7-5 on clay courts on the season, as he looks to build on his run to the Marbella semi-finals in April.
He will next face Andrej Martin, who needed two hours and 36 minutes to fight back after dropping the first set to lucky loser Renzo Olivo. Martin saved 14 of the 20 break points he faced as he clinched a 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) victory.
Also in action, Marco Cecchinato took down fifth seed Aljaz Bedene 6-1, 6-4 to improve to 2-3 in their ATP Head2Head. Cecchinato, a finalist in Parma in May, is now 14-12 on clay in 2021 and will next face Damir Dzhumur, who scored a 6-4, 6-3 win over qualifier Filip Horansky.
Local wild card Duje Ajdukovic gave Croatian fans plenty to cheer for after defeating Argentine qualifier Andrea Collarini 6-3, 6-2 to claim his first-ever tour-level main draw win. The 20-year-old booked a second-round clash with top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas as a reward.