Carlos Alcaraz beats Norbert Gombos to start Umag title defense | TBEN | Tennis

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The pressure to play as defending champion seems to suit Carlos Alcaraz well.

A year ago, the #NextGenATP Spaniard won his first TBEN title at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. On Thursday, Alcaraz raced past Norbert Gombos 6-2, 6-3 on his return to the gravel ATP 250 event in Croatia.

Despite the clear backlog, however, Alcaraz was tested on his own service by the world’s number 117 Gombos. The Spaniard had to fend off seven breakpoints in his win and use four of his own twelve chances to reach his eighth quarter-final of the year.

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“It was a very tough game”, Alcaraz said afterwards. “It was not as easy as the result seems. Norbert played a really good game and the first round of any tournament is never easy, so I had to get used to the conditions. It was difficult for me, but in the end I found a way to play better and get the win.”

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Since beating Richard Gasquet for the title in Umag last year, Alcaraz has added four more tour-level titles to his tally, including ATP Masters 1000 crowns at the Miami Open presented by Itau and the Mutua Madrid Open, and rose to a career. -highlight No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings.

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Despite his first taste of defeat in an TBEN final on Sunday, when he fell to Lorenzo Musetti in a thrilling three-set championship game at the Hamburg European Open, Alcaraz bounced back in style against Gombos. The top-class player showed his signature variety moving his opponent across the field, striking cleanly from the depths and putting his drop shot to good use en route to a one hour and 38 minute clinical win.

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The win improved Alcaraz’s record on clay in 2022 to 25-3. His challenger in the quarterfinals in Umag is Facundo Bagnis, who previously won 6-3, 6-1 against Corentin Moutet.

“I played against him” [Bagnis] in Challengers I remember we played difficult games,” said Alcaraz. “I know him so well and he is a great player on clay so it will be a very difficult game, but I’m going to try to do my best.”