Alcaraz advances at US Open as Koepfer retires
NEW YORK — Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz cruised into the second round of the US Open on Tuesday after his opponent, Dominik Koepfer of Germany, retired because of an injury during their prime-time match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 20-year-old top seed from Spain was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Koepfer retired, having rolled his ankle at a grimace-inducing angle minutes into the match. Alcaraz will play Lloyd Harris of South Africa in the second round.
“[Harris is] a great player, he has big shots so I have to be really focused on the match,” Alcaraz said. “Obviously [it] is going to be a tough one.”
Alcaraz drew a packed crowd to the iconic stadium, but the match quickly unraveled as underdog Koepfer stopped short along the baseline in the first game, twisting his left ankle and losing much hope of putting up a fight.
He took a medical timeout to have his ankle taped and returned to the court with the score at deuce but clearly was not at full strength. Alcaraz easily converted a break point with a well-placed drop shot.
Koepfer showed grit as he fended off a break point in the third game of the first set but was overheard telling his team that his ankle was in terrible shape, as his camp questioned whether he should continue.
Koepfer buried his head in his towel after Alcaraz forced him into a forehand error to convert on a break point chance in the seventh game.
Alcaraz, the Wimbledon champion, was in fine form, sending over 19 winners with few mistakes across the match, and he broke Koepfer to love in the third game of the second set after the German whacked a backhand shot out of bounds.
Koepfer fended off a pair of break point chances in the fifth game before solemnly walking to the net to resign.
“Obviously I have to give credit to him,” Alcaraz said in on-court remarks after the match. “First step on the court, I felt great … the same energy that I felt last year.”
Alcaraz will lose his world No. 1 spot when the tournament wraps after rival Novak Djokovic demolished Frenchman Alexandre Muller in his opening match Monday, a result that meant Djokovic will replace Alcaraz at the top of the rankings.