Carlos Alcaraz vs. Diego Schwartzman: Why Teenager Deserves Heavy Price in Rio Final (Feb. 20)
Buda Mendes/Getty. Pictured: Carlos Alcaraz hits a backhand at the Rio Open.
Carlos Alcaraz vs. Diego Schwartzman
|Time||3:30 p.m. ET|
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After lighting the tropical city of Rio on fire all week, Carlos Alcaraz is into his second Tour-level final, and third if you count the Next Gen Finals that he won at the end of 2020.
His opponent will be a veteran of the ATP top 20, Diego Schwartzman, who has three clay-court titles on Tour and reached the Argentina Open final last week.
Alcaraz got through four tough matches to reach the final, including victories over Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini, while Schwartzman had a bye into the round of 16 thanks to his third-seed status in the event.
The 18-year-old has already established himself as one of the best young talents on tour, and you could probably take out the qualifier in that statement as well. Ranked 29th in the world and set to be in the top 20 after Sunday’s final, Alcaraz could well find himself in the top 10 by year’s end.
He’s been showcasing the raw power and athleticism that has allowed him to soar up the ATP rankings, but he’s needed some grit and toughness to get through matches where he’s struggled to find his level at times.
Alcaraz dropped sets to Jaume Munar and Berrettini, but he played his best tennis in the crucial moments of each match. Against Federico Delbonis he recovered from a break down to win the second set, and against Fognini he was really in cruise control throughout.
The circumstances he competed in weren’t easy either, as he had to deal with rain delays and played two matches in one day in order to reach the conclusion of the tournament. For an 18-year-old to battle through those circumstances with apparent ease is remarkable, but it doesn’t come as a surprise for a player who is already one of the fittest on tour.
Schwartzman has battled well too, though, also winning twice on Saturday and getting by Francisco Cerundolo in a match where it seemed as if he was running on fumes.
It appeared at times that he also wouldn’t get by Pablo Andujar earlier in the day, but he outlasted him in three difficult sets after twice giving a break back in the decider.
Schwartzman and Alcaraz are yet to meet on Tour, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them play many times in the future, particularly on clay where they both excel.
This is a tough pick to make because I do feel as though it’ll be tough for Alcaraz to throttle a player with so much experience and proven ability on Tour, but the numbers speak for themselves in justifying a play on the Spaniard.
Alcaraz has been downright dominant behind his serve all week, winning over 60 percent of his first and second serve points in each of his matches. That’s a ridiculous stat to have on clay, particularly when considering he got by some veteran clay-court specialists to reach this point.
The world number 29 has also allowed his level to drop at times, but he’s quickly recovered from those spells each and every time. He had more unforced errors than winners against Berrettini and Fognini but found himself in control of points on a consistent basis.
Alcaraz has a higher clay court Elo Rating than Schwartzman and is already more capable of getting past high-quality competition than the Argentine. Over the past year, Alcaraz is 4-5 against top 10 players while Schwartzman is 2-4.
Though both face stern tough tests physically and mentally after playing two matches yesterday, Schwartzman looked the more weary of the two, and I’m comfortable with the 18-year old’s fitness levels considering what we’ve seen so far.
Alcaraz’s game is in much better shape than Schwartzman’s at the moment, and he’s covered the number in three of his four matches. He has no issue keeping his intensity high and keeping the gas up in all stages, so Alcaraz is a nice player to back on spreads, but he’s also the more capable player at the moment.
I see Alcaraz wearing down Schwartzman and battling through some ebbs and flows in his play to find a cover and win this final.
Pick: Carlos Alcaraz -3.5 games (-105, bet to -120)