Carlos Alcaraz showed his class as fellow young rival Jack Draper was forced to retire from their showdown in Indian Wells. The pair were facing off for the second time on the tour when the Brit was forced to retire with the top seed leading 6-2 2-0. And after the match, Alcaraz paid tribute to his opponent with a touching message on the camera.
Alcaraz and Draper set up a battle of the young guns in Indian Wells after the world No 56 won two all-British matches in a row – beating Dan Evans and Andy Murray back-to-back. Indian Wells marked his first tournament since the Australian Open and the 21-year-old put on three dominant displays in his first three matches.
But things came undone against the top seed, who broke him to start their second-career meeting. The world No 2 then ran away with the first set 6-2 as Draper started to struggle with the abdominal injury he picked up towards the end of his match with Murray on Monday, barely moving in some moments.
The British No 4 received treatment in between sets but it didn’t work and he retired after getting broken to go 0-2 down in the second. Alcaraz then took the opportunity to make a kind gesture for his opponent as he signed the camera lens as is tradition for players after a victory
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“Get well soon Jack!!,” the US Open champion wrote. Draper later explained his decision to retire, telling BBC Sport: “I was doing further damage, so there was no point in making it worse.
“At the end of my match against Andy, I obviously had a bit of hip pain but my ab towards the end was getting sorer.” And things went from bad to worse when the 21-year-old woke up feeling pain on Tuesday as he added: “I woke up and my ab was sore and when I started serving 100 per cent in the match it gradually got worse. I couldn’t really play properly.”
Meanwhile, Alcaraz was still happy with his performance despite spending just 46 minutes on court with the Spaniard also returning from some injury problems of his own. The 19-year-old ended his 2022 season in November when he tore his abdomen at the Paris Masters and had to delay his comeback after injuring his leg in pre-season training.
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He finally made a comeback in Argentina and won the title, storming into the Rio Open final a week later where he tweaked his leg while leading by a set-and-a-break and lost to Cameron Norrie, pulling out of the Acapulco Open and cancelling his Las Vegas exhibition. Now back in action in the Californian desert, Alcaraz said of his match with Draper: “It’s something that I didn’t want to happen.
“But talking for myself, yeah, I hit the ball really well. I think I move very well as well. I got more confidence to learn from.” The former world No 1 was also asked whether he returned to competition in Argentina full of belief or had to build his confidence back up after four months away from the tour.
“I have to go back to my usual confidence, you know,” he said. “Yeah, I didn’t feel I was the favourite once I start in Argentina, for example. But yeah, as soon as I was playing matches, tournaments, I was recovering my confidence, I was recovering, let’s say, my style, my level. Eight now I feel that I’m able to win tournaments. I’m there. One of the favourites. But once I start to play in tournaments again, I didn’t feel that I was the favourite.”
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