Alcaraz drops first set, rallies into Rio quarters

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz was far from his best against veteran Fabio Fognini, but he managed to advance to the Rio Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

The top-seeded Alcaraz overcame the 35-year-old Italian 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 in 2 hours, 47 minutes. The US Open champion’s next opponent will be a Serbian player — either Laslo Djere or Dusan Lajovic, who play later Thursday.

Alcaraz, 19, is playing his second tournament since he was sidelined for four months due to a right leg injury.

The Spaniard won the Argentina Open title on Sunday, having dropped only one set in the tournament.

In Rio, though, Alcaraz has been far less dominant against both rivals he has faced — No. 556 Mateus Alves, whom Alcaraz beat 6-4, 6-4, and No. 86 Fognini.

Alcaraz took a 3-0 lead over Fognini in the first set, but a run of unforced errors allowed the Fognini to fight back and win in the tiebreaker.

In the third set, Alcaraz again had a 3-0 advantage, but Fognini recovered and staged a comeback. However, the teenager’s energy and strong forehands prevailed.

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