RIO DE JANEIRO: Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz was far from his best against veteran Fabio Fognini but 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.
The 19-year-old Alcaraz 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 last 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, who 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 Italian to fight back and win in the tiebreaker.
In the third set, Alcaraz once again had a 3-0 advantage but saw the Italian recover and stage a comeback, but the teenager’s energy and strong forehands prevailed.