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PARIS — Sixth seed Carlos Alcaraz clawed back from the brink of a shock second-round defeat at the French Open on Wednesday to outlast fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a five-set marathon that fully tested his title credentials.
The 19-year-old, who has taken the tennis world by storm this year, survived a match point in the fourth set and battled back from 3-0 down in the fifth before winning 6-1 6-7(7) 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4 in a match lasting over four hour and a half hours.
Alcaraz is now unbeaten for 12 straight matches after bagging back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Madrid going into Roland Garros and will next face American Sebastian Korda.
"I am still young but I am an experienced player now," Alcaraz told a news conference.
"I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, Grand Slams. I am ready to play these kind of matches in these situations."
"I want to play big battles and top battles against the best players in the world," he said. "Being number one is my dream since I stated playing tennis."
Alcaraz had looked unflustered by the blustery conditions on the Simonne Mathieu Court with a near flawless performance in the first set.
The 34-year-old Ramos-Vinolas, a clay court specialist and quarter-finalist in Paris six years ago, had no response to Alcaraz's explosive power and accuracy.
The teenager's serve proved equally devastating as he gave away just three points in his service games in the first set.
His veteran opponent, however, was far from done, putting up a stronger fight as unforced errors started creeping into Alcaraz's game, including a forehand that sailed wide on Ramos-Vinolas's set point.
With his opponent now clearly unsettled, having lost his earlier momentum, Ramos-Vinolas moved Alcaraz around and broke him to go 2-1 up in the third set.
Alcaraz was paying the price for his unforced errors and his 44th, a simple volley into the net, handed Ramos-Vinolas a break to go 6-5 up and he held serve to lead 2-1.
Facing the prospect of a shock exit, Alcaraz survived a match point at 5-4 before forcing a fifth set.
He again had to work his way back from 0-3 to level before finishing Ramos-Vinolas off with an ace on his first match point.
"I knew that I would have my chance in the end of fourth set. I believed in myself the whole time. In the fourth and fifth set I was smiling with my team."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)