Carlos Alcaraz suffered a stunning defeat to 135th-ranked Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan as he was beaten 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in the third round of the Italian Open on Monday.
The Spaniard, who will reclaim the world No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic on May 22, suffered his earliest exit from a tournament since October.
The defeat comes just two weeks before he heads to the French Open in Paris as top seed.
The 20-year-old came into the tournament in Rome on the back of consecutive clay-court wins in Barcelona and Madrid. He had won 30 of 32 matches this year and was on a 12-match winning streak on clay.
But 23-year-old Marozsan, who had never played in the main draw of an ATP event until this week, hit 24 winners and made just 13 unforced errors.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable. He made me feel uncomfortable on court,” Alcaraz said. “He was aggressive all the time. He was playing inside the baseline all the time. It was tough for me to get into the match, into the rally. I made a lot of mistakes that I usually don’t make too much.
“He surprised me a lot. His level was really, really high. I’m sure he’s going to break the top 100 very, very soon.”
Marozsan clinched his first wins over top-100 players in the first two rounds when he beat No. 67 Corentin Moutet and 32nd-seeded Jiri Lehecka.
“Everything was perfect today: the crowd, the weather, the court,” Marozsan said after stunning the packed stadium on Campo Centrale.
“I just try to do something special or winning a few games or maybe a set or something like this, and I just beat the world No. 1 – he’s our best in the sport."
Alcaraz established a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker but Marozsan won six straight points to close it out.
“It’s amazing. I don’t know what happened during the points," Marozsan said. "I just try to hit back every ball and try to do my best.”
Marozsan will next face Borna Coric, who beat Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6, 6-1.
Monte Carlo Masters champion Andrey Rublev defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-3 and will next play German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, who beat former French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Daniil Medvedev, who had never won a match in three previous appearances in Rome, advanced by beating Bernabe Zapata Miralles 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.
“I’m playing my best tennis on clay now,” Medvedev said.
In women’s action, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina beat 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals and will next face two-time defending Rome champion Iga Swiatek or Donna Vekic.
Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine came past 2016 runner-up Madison Keys 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Other winners included Veronika Kudermetova, Zheng Quinwen and Beatriz Haddad Maia.