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Alcaraz races into Next Gen semi-finals

Tournament favourite Carlos Alcaraz has booked his place in the Next Gen Finals last four with a 4-3 (7-4) 4-1 4-3 (7-4) win over American Brandon Nakashima.

Alcaraz is living up to his billing as top seed and has not dropped a set in his two Group A matches at the round-robin tournament for the top 21-and-under players on the ATP Tour.

The Spaniard was taken to two tiebreaks by Nakashima on Wednesday but his powerful serve helped him to prevail in less than 90 minutes, with 10 aces.

The 18-year-old victor has moved more than 100 places up the rankings this season to No.32 and also reached the US Open quarter-finals.

“I am really happy with the level I am playing at,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview.

“Playing against a great player like Brandon, you play amazing points like we have played.

“I hope to play the semi-final at this level. The serve is very important on hard court and indoor courts. I am trying to improve the serve for my game.”

Nakashima, who beat Francisco Cerundolo in their opener, will face Denmark’s Holger Rune on Thursday for the other semi-final place from Group A.

Rune earlier kept his hopes alive by beating Cerundolo of Argentina 4-1 4-2 1-4 4-1.

Another American, Sebastian Korda, is on the cusp of progressing after beating Argentine Sebastian Baez 4-3 (7-3) 4-2 4-2 in 75 minutes to move to 2-0 in Group B.

He would have secured his place in the semis had Frenchman Hugo Gaston, who Korda beat on Tuesday, defeated home favourite Lorenzo Musetti.

But Musetti survived a scare to win 4-3 (7-4) 4-3 (8-6) 2-4 3-4 (9-7) 4-2.

Gaston had saved two match points in a contest that lasted more than two and a half hours.

It is the fourth edition of the annual tournament to crown the game’s best young player in Milan. It was cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are different rules at the Next Gen Finals, including on-court coaching, no-Ad scoring, medical timeout limits, and Hawk-Eye making all the line calls.

The most drastic change is the shorter set, where the first to four games takes the set, with a tiebreak at 3-3.

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