Carlos Alcaraz at full speed


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Madrid (AFP) – In five weeks, Carlos Alcaraz has won his first two Masters 1000 titles and has just brought down three of the four best players in the world in Madrid, including Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. What to meditate on the weapons of the Spanish phenomenon two weeks before Roland-Garros.

. An early success

World tennis has known for a while, that with Alcaraz, he had a particularly promising talent. What is amazing is the explosive trajectory of the young Spaniard for eight months.

A year ago, the protege of Juan Carlos Ferrero, ex-world No.1 and winner of Roland-Garros, was not yet in the top 100.

Twelve months later, he jumped to sixth place in the world. When he entered the top 10 on April 25, he was the youngest to break into it since Nadal, exactly 17 years earlier.

His three biggest accelerator hits? First major quarter-final at the US Open last September, first Masters 1000 in Miami in early April, and freshly doubled Barcelona-Masters 1000 in Madrid, ten matches won in a row, current series. And above all, two first victories against Nadal and Djokovic, unheard of in the same tournament on ochre.

Even his trainer is blown away: “It’s going faster and faster, he whispers to L’Equipe. He climbs the steps four by four.”

“These two matches will help him believe that he can achieve great things,” added Ferrero.

. head and legs

What is stunning with Alcaraz is its extraordinary ability to already rise to the occasion even in the most crucial moments, when the tension is at its maximum.

“He held his nerves very well. To play with so much maturity and courage at his age is impressive”, admired Djokovic, knocked down after 3h35 min of combat on Saturday.

Novak Djokovic after his defeat against Carlos Alcaraz, in Madrid, May 7, 2022 Pierre-Philippe MARCOU AFP

Asked to identify the key elements of his success, the Murcian cites his physical form and his mentality. “The mind is the most important. I have grown a lot in this area, he believes. That’s why I’m here today, that I play at this level and that I I can win big matches.”

His recipe? “Playing to win is my DNA”, sums up “Carlitos”, whose range of play, among other things his exceptional drop shots and his supersonic forehands, is impressive.

“I want to distinguish myself by getting the game. I want to be aggressive. (…) At least tell me that I dared. It’s in times like these that you see the difference between a good player and a + top player + like Djokovic, + Rafa +, Federer”, he explains.

Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, in the final of the Madrid tournament, May 8, 2022
Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, in the final of the Madrid tournament, May 8, 2022 JAVIER SORIANO AFP

. Motivation yes, pressure no

In addition to not being shy in matches, Alcaraz does not hesitate when it comes to asserting its ambitions.

“I feel ready to compete with (Nadal and Djokovic) in all tournaments, on all surfaces, he assumed after knocking them out in quick succession on Madrid clay. In Grand Slam, with matches in five sets, it’s totally different, but I think I’m ready.”

Once the trophy is in my hands, “it’s true that people will make me a favorite for Roland-Garros, he noted. But I take it as a source of motivation, not pressure.”

. The right timing?

What if, in addition to its immense intrinsic qualities, Alcaraz came along at the right time?

Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal before their quarter-final in Madrid, May 6, 2022
Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal before their quarter-final in Madrid, May 6, 2022 OSCAR DEL POZO AFP

Despite everything, the “Big 3” is getting old and – at the moment anyway – is not (yet?) the scarecrow that it was. Nadal is coming back from yet another injury (stress fracture to a rib in March) and Djokovic spent the first quarter almost at a standstill, for lack of vaccination against Covid-19. And Roger Federer, 41 at the start of August, hasn’t played for almost a year.

As for the intermediate generation, that of Daniil Medvedev – operated on for a hernia in early April -, Stefanos Tsitsipas or even Zverev, it does not impose itself as firmly as one might have expected, with the exception of the Russian.

All are warned: “I really want to go to Paris, to fight to win a Grand Slam.”, Alcaraz challenges them remotely.

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