Norrie rallies past injured Alcaraz to win Rio Open

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Cameron Norrie waited a week for his revenge against top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz, rallying from a set and 3-0 down to beat the Spanish teenager in the Rio Open final on Sunday for his first title of the year.

Second-seeded Norrie won 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 for the fifth title of his career after defeats in the final to Richard Gasquet in Auckland in January and to Alcaraz in the Argentina Open championship match last weekend.

Alcaraz’s failure to retain his title at the clay-court tournament in Rio de Janeiro also stopped him from tying with Novak Djokovic in points at the top of the rankings. Djokovic would still have been No. 1 due to other results.

Alcaraz and Norrie went head to head in a tightly fought first set, which was eventually decided by Alcaraz’s drop shots breaking Norrie’s serve.

Alcaraz showed more confidence with his powerful forehand shots at the start of the second set, and opened a 3-0 advantage against Norrie. But the British player recovered in the middle of the set as Alcaraz felt pains in his right leg, which hindered his movement and serve. Alcaraz later said the problem was a recurrence of the injury that sidelined him for almost four months until earlier in February.

“I didn’t see [Alcaraz was injured]. I broke him to make 4-3 in the second set, then he called the trainer. But he didn’t take any injury time out at all in the match,” Norrie said in a news conference when asked whether he had sought to exploit the Spaniard’s physical difficulties. “It is special when you do it against a top player like Alcaraz. It took a lot of heart.”

Norrie led most of the deciding set but had to work hard against a recovering Alcaraz. Norrie’s strong returns helped him prevail in 2 hours, 41 minutes, clinching the title with an ace. The Briton dropped to his knees and roared to celebrate in front of a crowd that was mostly supporting Alcaraz.

“I had to fight really hard, and I had to run a lot,” Norrie said after winning his first ATP 500 title. “To win a title on clay is a different kind of feeling. You really have to earn it, you need to run a lot. I lose a couple of finals this year, and to turn around here and win the biggest title of the year … I came to South America with the intention to improve on clay. My game can be well suited.”

Alcaraz returned to the tour last week at the Argentina Open, where he dropped only one set en route to his first title since his Grand Slam breakthrough at the US Open last year. He said he was not sure whether he would be joining Norrie at the hardcourt tournament in Acapulco this week due to his leg injury.

“I did not seize my opportunities like I did in Buenos Aires. And I couldn’t finish the match at my best physical level,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve played each of the latest 15 days without stop. And in tough matches like this one you can feel some pain. To avoid something worse I wrapped my leg to protect it. But when you feel an injury you had a few months before, it is complicated.”

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