Tennis pro Jan-Lennard Struff just missed the crowning of his fairytale run at the Masters tournament in Madrid and the big sensation against Carlos Alcaraz. The 33-year-old lost to the Spanish world number two 4:6, 6:3, 3:6 despite another excellent performance in the final. Three weeks before the start of the French Open, Struff has to wait for the first ATP tournament win of his career, but he is climbing higher than ever in the world rankings.

Unlike Alexander Zverev at 1: 6, 2: 6 in the round of 16, Struff did not receive a lesson from Alcaraz, but was able to keep up for a long time. At the beginning, the Sauerlander was still nervous on the big stage in his first Masters final. With two double errors each, Struff conceded two breaks in the first set, defending champion Alcaraz clenched his fist after 52 minutes.

But in the second round, Struff took the serve from his 20-year-old opponent early on and kept his nerve in front of the loud crowd in the Manolo Santana Stadium. Before the eyes of tennis legend Björn Borg and football icons like Raúl and Luis Figo, Struff could hope for the really big coup.

But the 1.93 meter tall giant was slowly starting to notice the strains of the tournament, in which he initially failed to qualify. According to the player organization ATP, Struff was the first professional to play six three-set matches at an ATP event. And against a tired Davis Cup player, Alcaraz won the third round with his extra class and converted the first match point after 2:25 hours.

For the first time ever, Struff was in the final of a tournament in the second highest category – and even managed another novelty: he had actually already failed in qualifying, but made it into the main field by canceling another player. Reaching the final as a so-called lucky loser was something no other professional in the history of the Masters had managed to do.

This rise had not been foreseeable not too long ago. At the end of 2022 he was still 150th in the world rankings, now he has made the jump to 28th place. With a triumph in the final, he would even have passed Zverev and become the new German number one.

“There are many things to suggest that the journey is not over yet,” said Davis Cup captain Michael Kohlmann of the German Press Agency. He also gives Struff good chances at the French Open from May 28th: ​​”He’s riding a wave of success and dares to win against the really big ones. I wish that he can transport that to Paris. ”Because Struff missed the French Open last year due to a toe injury, he does not have to defend any world ranking points at the Grand Slam tournament on sand.

Struff impressively proved in Madrid and also when he reached the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo that he can be expected again. The three-set victory in the semi-finals in Madrid against the Russian Aslan Karazew, against whom Struff had lost in qualification, was “a monster energy performance”, said his coach Marvin Netuschil. And former tennis star Boris Becker called the Warsteiner “a machine”.

In the previous year, this machine had stalled. The protracted toe injury unsettled Struff and pushed him out of the top 100 in the world rankings. But already at the end of the year Struff showed increasing form, especially the victory in the Davis Cup quarterfinals against the Canadian top player Denis Shapovalov gave the German “an incredible boost”, as team boss Kohlmann revealed. The flight of fancy did not come as a complete surprise to him: “Struffi has always had great potential.”

At the end of August 2020, Struff was already 29th in the world before the big breakthrough. He should definitely succeed this time. The recovery comes late, but not too late. “The last few years are slowly approaching, although I’m not even thinking about quitting,” the 33-year-old told WDR at the beginning of the year. His main motivation is “the love of the game”, but he also admitted: “The most fun is when you win more and are higher in the world rankings.”