Carlos Alcaraz produced a burst of untouchable clay-court tennis Thursday at the Hamburg European Open to overcome a slow start in a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory against Filip Krajinovic.

While the Serbian matched the top seed blow for blow in the opening set and served for the set at 5-4, Alcaraz began to find his top level at the crucial moment. He saved four set points in that 5-4 game, then reeled off five straight points to win the tie-break from 2/4.

“I had to play one of my best matches on Tour. I’m really happy with my performance,” Alcaraz said after the victory.

Carlos Alcaraz

In a clean match from both sides, Krajinovic hit five more winners than Alcaraz, finishing with a pristine 27-to-15 winners-to-unforced-errors count.

“It was pretty tough. Filip was playing unbelievable. He played really well from the beginning until the end.”

Down 2/4 in the tie-break, Alcaraz went from defense to offense as he punished a floated Krajinovic volley to get back on serve. That escape opened the floodgates for a barrage of Alcaraz winners which sealed the set and shifted the momentum firmly onto his side.

The Spaniard raced to a double-break advantage at 4-1 in the second set behind more heavy hitting. Despite giving one break back, Alcaraz closed out the match with ease to set up a quarter-final showdown with Karen Khachanov — a rematch of their Roland Garros fourth-round meeting, which Alcaraz won in straight sets. The seventh-seeded Khachanov defeated Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-5 earlier on Thursday in Hamburg.

“I know that Karen’s playing well,” the Spaniard said of his next opponent. “He has a great level, big serve, so it’s going to be a tough match. But I think with the performance today, I have the confidence to have a good match in the quarter-finals.”

With the victory, Alcaraz improved to 22-2 on clay this season, his 22 victories joint-most alongside Casper Ruud (22-7), who was victorious in Gstaad on Thursday. Alcaraz is seeking his fourth clay title on the year; he leads the ATP Tour with three such trophies to date (Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Madrid) in addition to his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title on the Miami hard courts. Alcaraz’s four tour-level titles match Rafael Nadal’s four for the most overall in 2022.

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