Carlos Alcaraz fought off a stern test from Alex Molcan on Saturday at the Hamburg European Open to set up a marquee final against fellow #NextGenATP star Lorenzo Musetti at the ATP 500 event.
The 7-6(2), 6-1 victory moves the Spaniard up to No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, with the No. 4 spot on offer should he claim the Hamburg title. Regardless of the final result, Alcaraz is set to break into the Top 5 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.
"It was tough," Alcaraz said post-match. "Obviously he played really well. The first set was really close. I'm really happy to be able to end the first set playing well.
"In the second set, I think he was down a little bit. He didn't play well in the second set. I finished the match with a lot of confidence and played very well."
The Spaniard was tested early by Molcan, who matched his aggression from the baseline throughout the opening set. Alcaraz twice led by a break in the opener, but was forced to a tie-break as the Slovakian battled back with a tricky combination of powerful hitting and deft drop shots — tactics Alcaraz has used to great effect all season.
"I couldn't read the drop shots from him," Alcaraz added. "He was better on the drop shots today, so I was a little bit [frustrated] in the first set."
But after Alcaraz contributed to Molcan's success with unforced errors late in the set, the Spaniard cleaned up his game in the tie-break as he raced to a 6/0 lead before closing it out.
An expert frontrunner, the Spaniard carried that momentum into the second set as he unloaded from the baseline with Molcan unable to offer the sort of resistance he summoned in the opening set.
The Spaniard can now look ahead as he seeks to improve upon his 5-0 record in tour-level finals, including 4-0 this season. With victory against Musetti, he will break a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most titles on the 2022 ATP Tour season.
"Lorenzo is playing really well," Alcaraz previewed. "Of course he's a great player. It's going to be a great final. He has played great matches before the final. [I have] as well, so I have a lot of confidence for the final and hope to make it six-for-six."
Both Alcaraz and Musetti enter the final behind eight-set winning streaks in Hamburg after both men dropped the opening set of their campaigns.