Playing his first ATP Tour match in more than three months, Carlos Alcaraz made a winning return to competition on Wednesday night at the Argentina Open. The first former World No. 1 to compete in Buenos Aires since Gustavo Kuerten in 2004, the Spaniard lived up to lofty expectations with a powerful performance at the ATP 250.
Returning from recent abdominal and hamstring injuries, Alcaraz earned a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory in two hours against Laslo Djere. He was at his best early and late as he moved through the gears, treating the expectant crowd to the full range of magic that helped him claim the 2022 year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
“It’s a great feeling to win again,” Alcaraz said post-match. “It’s been a long time for me with no competition, with no matches, just recovering. Finally I got my first win of 2023.”
A fast start quelled any early nerves, as the 19-year-old raced to a 3-1 lead. But he could not win a wild second set that included 15 combined break points, none of which were converted until Djere made the breakthrough on his second set point. Any disappointment was short-lived with an immediate break putting Alcaraz back in command. Like in the opening set, he did not face a break point in the decider.
While he did most of his damage with heavy baseline blows, Alcaraz mixed in a few drop shots and net approaches as he eased back into competition in a welcoming atmosphere. He was serenaded with an “Ole Carlos” chant in between sets, with Argentine legend Gabriela Sabatini among those in the stands to see the the Spaniard’s tournament debut.
“I’m really happy [in Buenos Aires],” Alcaraz said. “I didn’t expect such a great crowd, a great atmosphere behind me. So I just can say thank you to all the fans here in Buenos Aires for the warm welcome that I received in this first match and I hope to keep going with this energy.”
After an abdominal tear ended his 2022 season after the Rolex Paris Masters, Alcaraz picked up a hamstring injury during his preparations for the Australian Open. He lost the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings to Novak Djokovic during his time on the sidelines, but now begins his charge to return to the pinnacle of men’s tennis.