BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Carlos Alcaraz made a winning return to tennis after a four-month injury absence yesterday, defeating Serbia’s Laslo Djere to advance to the quarter-finals of the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires.
The 19-year-old Spaniard showed signs of ring-rustiness during a two-hour battle on the Court Guillermo Vilas before sealing a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory against Djere, the world number 57.
World number two Alcaraz, who will play another Serb, Dusan Lajovic, in the last eight, said afterwards he was relieved to have got his first victory of 2023.
“It’s a great feeling to win again,” the reigning United States (US) Open champion said.
“It’s been a long time without any competition and no matches, just recovering – finally I got my first win of 2023.
“I’m really happy. I didn’t expect such a great atmosphere behind me. So a thank you to all the fans here – hopefully I can keep going with this energy.”
Prior to yesterday, Alcaraz had not played since suffering a leg muscle tear at the Paris Masters in November which ruled him out of the start of the 2023 season, including the Australian Open.
Against Djere, he started smoothly after taking the first set briskly but then failed to make the most of multiple chances to break his opponent in the second set.
Instead Djere pounced on Alcaraz’s inconsistent form to level the match and take it to a third set.
Alcaraz though responded decisively, breaking in the first game and then breaking again for a 5-2 lead before serving out for the match.
His quarter-final opponent Lajovic advanced to the last eight yesterday with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Camilo Ugo of Argentina.
In the other side of the draw, British second seed Cameron Norrie reached the quarter-finals by defeating Argentina’s Facundo Diaz 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8/6).
Norrie will play Tomas Etcheverry in the quarter-finals after the Argentinian’s 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.