MADRID (AP) — Carlos Alcaraz’s bid to win a third straight Madrid Open title ended with a three-set loss to Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

The second-seeded Spaniard got off to a good start but then was outplayed by the seventh-seeded Rublev, losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 at the Caja Magica center court.

Alcaraz, who had already struggled in a three-set win over Jan-Lennard Struff on Tuesday, looked out of sorts and was mistake-prone toward the end.

It was his first tournament after missing Monte Carlo and Barcelona because of a right forearm injury. The 20-year-old Alcaraz had arrived in Madrid saying he would be happy to play three or four matches in the Spanish capital.

Already in a hole in the third set, Alcaraz pressed the forearm during a stopover. He was wearing a long sleeve over the injured arm.

“Today probably I felt more in the forearm than yesterday’s match. I mean, playing three hours yesterday, I knew that I’m going to feel something or I’m going to think about it even more,” the third-ranked Alcaraz said. “Playing someone like Rublev that I couldn’t push him to the limit in every point is tough.”

Alcaraz plans to play in Rome to continue his preparation for the French Open later this month.

“I’m going to go to Rome. I’m going to work to be close to 100% or in a good way to play Rome, but I’m going to decide these days. But I think I’ll be OK,” he said. “I have to work hard if I want to go to Rome with good feelings, without pain, without thinking about my forearm, but it’s going to be a slow process, I guess. I have to be patient in that way.”

Alcaraz was trying to become the first player to win the clay-court tournament three straight times. He hadn’t lost on Spanish soil since 2021.

Rublev, seeking his second ATP 1000 title after winning Monte Carlo last year, will play either Taylor Fritz or Francisco Cerundolo.

The world No. 8 was solid from the start and overpowered Alcaraz with 30 winners.

“The serve saved me a lot of times today,” Rublev said. “The key was I was completely calm the whole match. I did not say one word, even if I was losing. That was the key and I was able to serve even better near the end. In the beginning, I was not serving that well but little by little, after set one, I served better and better and finished really well.”

RYBAKINA ADVANCES

Fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina saved two match points en route to a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 win over Yulia Putintseva to reach the women’s semifinals.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion rallied while trailing 5-2 in the third set. She also trailed by an early break in the second set.

Rybakina has won eight matches in a row and has a tour-leading 30-4 record this season. She has 16 straight clay wins and is trying to reach her sixth final of the year.

Rybakina will next face either defending champion Aryna Sabalenka or 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis