ATP TENNIS: Alcaraz returns to the court on the clay in Rio. The clay season is well and truly underway as we head to the glorious sun-soaked beaches of Rio De Janeiro. We preview the Rio Open and the top players’ chances of victory.
The 2022 singles champion and current world number two returns to court after missing out on the Australian Open due to injury, and if he plays anywhere near the way he did in the latter side of 2022, there won’t be many that can stand in his way.
Hailed as the next big thing in tennis once Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal retire, Carlos Alcaraz has showcased every single attribute required to be the world’s best tennis player. Looking at the incredible records he has already broken – namely being the youngest-ever Pepperstone end of year world number one and the youngest ever men’s number one – it’s safe to say Alcaraz is set up for a sparkling career.
Raised in the Mediterranean sunshine of Spain, Alcaraz will feel at home on the clay in Brazil, and he will be looking to land on his feet and dominate his opposition from the get-go. It can’t be said that the players he will be coming up against here are of the absolute highest calibre ranking-wise; Alcaraz is the only top-ten player and the only participant to have won a Grand Slam in the last 12 months.
Realistically, Alcaraz should win this tournament with ease, and the only factor that may put a stop to a second Rio Open victory in a row could be his relative lack of tennis matches in the last few months.
Britain’s Cameron Norrie is our second favourite to triumph here, and with his ability, there is no reason why he couldn’t go all the way to the final. However, it hasn’t always been that simple for Norrie, who has often struggled to display his best tennis for long enough to really succeed.
He may turn up and play the way he did when he went 1-0 up against Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semi-final, or he may play the way he did at the Australian Open when he was knocked out in the third round. There really is no telling with Norrie, but it must be said that he can play when he gets into his rhythm; it’s whether or not he can maintain it for long enough to cause problems for elite opponents.
He is our second favourite to triumph in Rio. As we mentioned, there is no reason why he can’t win here; it’s down to what kind of mindset he turns up with. Not one to place early bets on, but it’s worth watching him in his first game to see how he fares before taking any punts.
Lorenzo Musetti will certainly be a threat to the two favourites in this tournament, as his title-winning 2022 form continued into the new year with a win at the Buenos Aires Open that sees him into the quarter-final.
The Italian is ranked 20th in the world and claimed two titles last year, one on clay, so he will be fancying his chances of going all the way here. It could be a positive one for Musetti, who will be hoping to make amends for his first-round exit at the Australian Open last month.
Musetti is an up-and-down player himself but can beat some of the best players in the world when he’s up for it. He beat fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini in October, Casper Ruud in Paris in November, and even took a win from Alcaraz in July last year, so he’s certainly not one to write off here.
He is worth keeping an eye on as the Italian will offer great value against the better players, and you never know, he might pull it out of the bag and shock everyone. He’s done it before.