Carlos Alcaraz advances in Rome, will ascend to No. 1 in world

World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz marked his Italian Open debut by shaking off a sluggish start to emerge with an efficient 6-4, 6-1 second-round win over unseeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas on a rain-affected Saturday in Rome.

Alcaraz, who is chasing his fifth title of 2023 and fourth on clay ahead of the French Open, double-faulted to hand Ramos-Vinolas a break of his serve in the opening game of the match but quickly recovered amid heavy conditions at the Foro Italico to level the opening set at 2-2.

Alcaraz, 20, who had a first-round bye, earned another chance to break Ramos-Vinolas with a deft drop shot in an intense 10th game and took the advantage in the match when his compatriot finally fell to the pressure and sent a forehand long. Alcaraz continued to build momentum and raced ahead 3-0 in the second set against a fading Ramos-Vinolas, wrapping up the match on serve to make it 12 wins in a row.

"It wasn't easy," said Alcaraz, who will leapfrog Novak Djokovic into the top spot in the rankings on May 22 and is assured the No. 1 seed at Roland Garros. "The first round of every tournament is really tough, and, of course, Ramos-Vinolas is a specialist on clay. I had to adapt my game quickly to be able to go through.

"The conditions weren't easy, the rain and the waiting all day to know if I'm going to be able to play ... but I'm really happy with my performance in the end."

Alcaraz produced 2½ times as many winners as Ramos-Vinolas, 28-11, despite the slow conditions caused by the rainy day. Alcaraz extended his winning streak to 12 matches and improved to 20-1 on clay this year.

He will next face Jiri Lehecka or Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan.

Monte Carlo champion Andrey Rublev overcame Alex Molcan 6-3, 6-4 in a twice-interrupted match to book his place in the third round.

"I'm happy that I was able to finish just before the rain," Rublev said as the showers arrived again after the match. "I can rest now, and I can rest tomorrow. I don't need to stress waiting until the afternoon."

Rublev's Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev will not have that luxury, however, as he will look for his first victory in Rome when he opens his campaign against Finn Emil Ruusuvuori in a late match.

Alexander Zverev, the 2017 champion, is also in action in the evening and meets David Goffin, while fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Nuno Borges.

Qualifier Camila Osorio served up another upset in the women's draw, after her win over 29th-seeded Petra Martic, with the Colombian player downing world No. 4 Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-4 to make the round of 16.

Sofia Kenin's resurgent run came to an end as the former Australian Open champion, who took out world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the previous round, failed to find a way past Anhelina Kalinina and lost 6-4, 6-2. Wang Xiyu also defeated Taylor Townsend 6-2, 0-6, 7-5.

In other men's matches, J.J. Wolf eliminated 14th-seeded Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 and Borna Coric rallied past Thiago Monteiro 4-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (5).

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.