Jan-Lenard Struff set up a showdown with Carlos Alcaraz to become the first lucky loser to reach the final of an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, continuing his “amazing journey” at the Madrid Open.
The German lost to Kaja Magica in the second round of qualifying, but made the most of the break to enter the main draw after a few exits.
Prior to Struff’s run, Thomas Johansson (Toronto 2004) and Lucas Pauille (Rome 2016) were the only lucky men to reach the semifinals of an ATP Masters tournament.
Surprisingly, it was Aslan Karatesev who won the qualifiers and 10 days later he beat the Russian 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 16 minutes to reach his first ever Masters final.
“(I’m) thrilled to be chosen as the lucky loser, two out of three. It’s a crazy story. I couldn’t have imagined it,” he said.
It’s an incredible journey and story here in Madrid and very, very happy. Never give up and always try again.
The first lucky loser to reach the Masters 1000 final – ever 🤯@Struffitennis Beats Karatev to make history in Madrid!#Emmopen pic.twitter.com/rElWiQOuaR
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 5, 2023
After starting his main draw campaign with two wins against Lorenzo Sonigo, he defeated 32nd seed Ben Shelton, Dusan Lajovic and Pedro Cacin in three sets to book a quarter-final place against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
He pulled off another three-set win in the fourth set and followed it up with a come-from-behind win over Karatev.
The world number 121 broke twice in the opener before going down one break in the second set to help Strough take a break in the fifth game.
“It’s amazing,” Struff said. “I didn’t think about it. I played a final in Munich before  But due to covid there was not much crowd. Now I am here and [there is] Amazing people. I think there will be a really good crowd on Sunday too. I am very happy to have reached the final and I am happy with the victory.
Sunday’s final against defending champions Alcaraz will be a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon first round match, when the Spaniard won in five games.
“We played an amazing match at Wimbledon last year and he was so close to beating him, but he hit some unbelievable shots in the final,” Struff said.
“This will be different. This is in Spain, in Madrid. I think he is 20-0 on Spanish clay courts, so it will be very difficult. I have to go for him or I will have no chance. I will do everything I can to beat him and win my first title.
Read more: Carlos Alcaraz claims 20th consecutive win on Spanish soil to celebrate 20th birthday