He may have developed into one of the best players in the world, but Carlos Alcaraz is not immune to an off day.
The reigning Wimbledon champion suffered a surprise defeat to Russia’s Roman Safiullin in the Paris Masters on Tuesday, the first time the 20-year-old has lost an opening round match at a tournament this year.
The world No. 2, who received a bye for the first round, looked way off the pace as he slipped to a 6-3 6-4 defeat at the hands of a player ranked 43 places lower than himself.
Alcaraz, who was forced to pull out of a tournament in Switzerland last week due to injury, had gone up a break in both sets, but his 27 unforced errors allowed his opponent a way back into the match.
“We try to turn the page quickly, but it’s difficult,” Alcaraz told reporters after the loss.
“It’s even more difficult, above all for me, to lose in the first rounds of a tournament that you expect to make the finals or where you expect a lot of yourself, it hurts. It hurts a lot.
“Right now is one of the few times where I don’t want to think about the next few days, about training and the rest, but well, it’s what I have to do. There’s only one tournament left, but these losses hurt a lot.”
Safiullin needed little encouragement as he rose to occasion once again – the big win follows a breakthrough run at this year’s Wimbledon where he reached the quarterfinals.
“For Carlos, it was not his best performance, but still I’m happy that I can win,” Safiullin said after the match.
“Even if he’s not in the best shape, it’s tough to beat him. So I’m really happy that I made it.”
Alcaraz was playing for the first time since he lost to Grigor Dimitrov at the Shanghai Masters on October 11.
The successive defeats have proved a major dent in Alcaraz’s hopes of wrestling the world No. 1 spot back off Novak Djokovic before the end of the year.
The Serb is set to start his Paris Masters campaign against Argentina’s Tomás Etcheverry on Wednesday as he looks to win his seventh title at the event.