ATP Paris, France

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ATP Paris, France

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ATP Paris, France

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ATP Paris, France

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ATP Paris, France

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ATP Paris, France

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By Steve Tignor Nov 04, 2021
ATP Paris, France

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By Matt Cronin Nov 03, 2021
ATP Paris, France

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By Joel Drucker Nov 03, 2021
MATCH POINT: Alcaraz d. Sinner, 7-6 (1), 7-5.

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“Alcaraz-Sinner…a preview of the 2023 US Open final?”

That’s what a friend emailed me as the young Spaniard and Italian were playing their first match against each other, on Wednesday in the second round of the Paris Masters. It’s an intriguing question. Alcaraz is 18 and Sinner recently turned 20, but both have already shown that they can hang with the game’s best players, and make deep inroads at its biggest events. Sinner is ranked No. 9 and is in the running—or was in the running until today—to make his first trip to the ATP Finals. Alcaraz is ranked No. 35, up from No. 114 in May. They both look set to spend many years in the Top 10, and to face off many more times, with a lot more on the line.

Let the record show that Alcaraz was the winner of their first face-off, 7-6 (1), 7-5. Normally, this would have been center-court material, but a match between two Frenchmen, Gael Monfils and Adrian Mannarino, was happening at the same time, so Sinner-Alcaraz was relegated to the small, low-ceilinged Court 1. But what that venue lacks in grandeur, it makes up for in intimacy and energy. As the two players walked on court, there was a noisy sense of anticipation from the capacity crowd. Those fans may be happy to look back and say they saw these two play for the first time.

Alcaraz is the younger player, but he already has more versatility to his game. He’s faster than Sinner, and a better defender.

Alcaraz is the younger player, but he already has more versatility to his game. He’s faster than Sinner, and a better defender.

The match was what most of us expected: A toe-to-toe shootout with no punches pulled, and not much that separated the two players. Alcaraz won because he was more aggressive in the first-set tiebreaker—and also because he won two points on net cords—and because he kept up a relentless pressure on Sinner in the second set. After squandering three break points at 1-1, and two more at 2-2, he finally broke through at 5-5.

Alcaraz is the younger player, but he already has more versatility to his game. He’s faster than Sinner, and a better defender. And while he doesn’t hit his ground strokes quite as hard as Sinner does, Alcaraz’s have more shape, and are a little steadier. He can hit forcefully without taking as many risks as Sinner does with with his lower-margin lasers.

Alcaraz and Sinner look like future Grand Slam champions in part because of what they already do well. But they also look like future Grand Slam champions because of what they don’t yet do perfectly. They both still go through patches of scratchy play. They both occasionally try for shots that aren’t there. They can both add to their all-court games, especially Sinner. They both have room to improve, and that might be the best sign of all for their futures.