Carlos Alcaraz fears intensify despite reigning Wimbledon champ booking quarter-final spot | Tennis | Sport

Carlos Alcaraz won the first Franco-Spanish sporting battle of the week in a three-hour classic on Centre Court.

In a prequel to the football Euro 2024 semi-final between France and Spain on Tuesday night, Alcaraz beat No.16 seed Ugo Humbert 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to become the first player into the men’s quarter-finals.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the defending champion won with a set to spare.

Humbert gave Alcaraz all the trouble he could handle, and his battlecry of “Vamos” when the deal was done was rooted more in relief than euphoria. With heavy downpours putting the Centre Court roof’s waterproofing to the test – and it passed its Old Trafford exam handsomely – Humbert was first to spring a leak.

Alcaraz was taken the distance in a five-set thriller by Frances Tiafoe on Friday, and this time he looked in the mood to get business done early. He took the first set in 41 minutes, but the second was a thrilling baseline war of attrition garnished with exquisite excursions to the net by both players.

Twice in as many games, Humbert – tall, left-handed, with a decent serve and full range of strokes – made Alcaraz dig deep like a street fighter to hold serve after a succession of deuces.

But champions only need a chink of brightness to flood a court in daylight, and the Spaniard seized on his first break point to clinch the second set 6-4. It was an extraordinary rally, with Alcaraz slumped on his backside beyond the baseline yet still managing to recover and draw an error from Humbert.

The crowd were still on their feet, cheering to the rafters, when Alcaraz reached his seat at the changeover, milking the applause like a dairy maid after the best rally of the tournament left him two sets to the good.

But 26-year-old Humbert – who has won all six finals he has reached on the ATP tour in Auckland, Antwerp, Halle, Dubai, Metz and Marseille – took the third 6-1 as Alcaraz switched to autopilot.

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