Carlos Alcaraz suffered another disappointing exit at the Rolex Paris Masters on Tuesday, falling at the first hurdle as he lost to Roman Safiullin 6-3 6-4. But it’s no coincidence that the tough loss came in Paris-Bercy as Alcaraz has something of a ‘curse’ at the event – getting injured last year and being left in tears in 2021. And the world No 2 believes that there are two factors behind his woes – the tournament’s reputation for upsets and where it falls in the tennis calendar.
Alcaraz has a tough record at the final Masters 1000 event of the season, going back to when he made his debut two years ago. It was an impressive start for the then-world No 35 as he upset eighth seed Jannik Sinner in the second round. In his next match, he led Frenchman Hugo Gaston 5-0 in the second set after dropping the first.
But the Spaniard suffered a monumental collapse as the home favourite won seven games in a row to come through 6-4 7-5. Alcaraz was in tears after the heartbreaking defeat but he managed to have a better showing when he returned in 2022 as a Grand Slam champion and world No 1.
However, the ‘curse’ continued as Alcaraz picked up an abdominal strain during his quarter-final match against Holger Rune and was forced to shut down his season, being denied the chance to make his ATP Finals debut. And it was another tough outing in Paris-Bercy on Tuesday when the second seed lost to qualifier Safiullin despite leading by a break in both sets, marking the first time this year that Alcaraz has lost his opening match at any tournament.
Given Alcaraz’s success, his results at the Paris Masters are something of an anomaly as he has failed to make good memories at the event. And the two-time Major winner has shared his theories for his difficulties at the final Masters 1000 of the season.
“Well, I don’t know. Probably the season has been so, so long. Probably that affect my game,” the 20-year-old said after his defeat to Safiullin when quizzed over his record in Paris-Bercy.
“But I don’t know. I think this tournament has a lot of surprise. I don’t know, because if it’s, you know, the end of the season, players are tired, no?” While Alcaraz clearly struggles to remain fresh at the last Masters of the year while other players may come in more undercooked, he is still hoping to figure things out to put in a better showing in 12 months’ time.
He added: “But talking about myself, I don’t know, honestly. I have to figure out and I’ll try to the next years to be better in this part of the year.” The Paris Masters has traditionally thrown up some surprise champions, including Jack Sock six years ago. In 2018, Karen Khachanov won his first – and so far only – Masters title by beating Novak Djokovic in the final.
The Russian has remained a solid top 20 player but waited five years to win his next trophy at any level, which came earlier this year in Zhuhai. Alcaraz will be hoping that he can end that next time he returns to Paris-Bercy, likely in 2024.
The 20-year-old could even follow in the footsteps of Novak Djokovic – who is back in action for the first time in six weeks and will be much fresher than his rivals after opting to skip the Asian swing in order to give himself a better chance at the end of the season.