Tennis: following in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, new world tennis star, "impresses everyone"

Tennis: following in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, new world tennis star, “impresses everyone”

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His name is on everyone’s lips. Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz dazzles the tennis world with his meteoric rise. Unknown to the general public two years ago, the brunette with short hair and brown eyes is one of the outsiders at Roland-Garros in his second participation, even more so after his title, on Sunday May 8 in Madrid, his second Masters 1000 race. With 27 wins to his name this season for three losses, including wins against giants Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the Murcian is now one of the contenders for victory in Paris.

Since his first tournament on the main circuit in 2020, he has been breaking records for prematurity. In February, he won his first ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro and became, at 18 years, 10 months, the youngest tennis player to allow himself a tournament of this caliber. In March, he won his first Masters 1000 in Miami. Again, he is the youngest player to win the title in Florida, and even writes his name in history by becoming the first Spaniard to lift the trophy there. Five times finalist, Rafael Nadal has never managed to win.

Only two men have done better in Masters history: American Michael Chang in Toronto in 1990 (18 years, 5 months and 7 days), and Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo in 2005 (18 years, 10 months and 14 days). ). Do you want more ? At the last Australian Open, then out of qualifying, Alcaraz became the youngest Spanish player to win a Grand Slam match since Nadal in 2003.

Still in 318th place in the ATP ranking as of March 16, 2020, 114th place a year ago, this Monday he is 6th in the world. Where will it stop? alcaraz “He is a player who progresses at a phenomenal rate, explained in mid-April Patrick Mouratoglou, consultant for France Televisions on “All Sport”. When a player burns the stages like him, in general, it is a very good sign. He impresses everyone with the quality of his shot, his physical qualities and his ability to win.”

“He will probably become one of the best players in the world soon. I think he will skip stages very quickly,” he said.defeated Rafael Nadal on May 5, 2021, before the journalists, after his quick victory against Alcaraz in Madrid (6-1, 6-2) in the round of 16. Indeed, the young player jumped the steps four by four: a year later, he was the one who beat his oldest in the quarterfinals of the Spanish tournament (6-2, 1-6, 6-

Obviously, we cannot avoid comparing the two Spaniards. They started on the professional circuit at age 15 and won their first tournament at 18. It was also at this age that Alcaraz became the youngest player to break into the world Top 10 since… Rafael Nadal in 2005.

Beyond the numbers, the young prodigy shares with the Mallorcan his devastating right hand, his predispositions on clay, his mind of steel, as well as an attitude and humility welcomed by all. For many, such a comparison would have been suffocating and paralyzing. Carlos Alcaraz managed to transform it into an engine to win. “Thanks to ‘Rafa’ I learned the importance of playing with a lot of energy and giving everything from the first ball to the last. The challenge of trying to get to where ‘Rafa’ got to is also a great motivation for me, although I know it’s almost impossible” , He confided in April at a press conference after his victory at the Miami Masters 1000.

However, Alcaraz also knows how to emerge from the shadow of the giant, according to the Corriere della Sera (article in Italian). “I’m from Murcia, he’s from Mallorca. He’s left-handed, I’m not. When I was little, I was anything but a warrior: small, skinny and not very powerful. Quite the opposite of Nadal…”

On the court, his style is more like Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. His tennis is effective both on clay and hard courts and more offensive than ‘Rafa’. His range of shots, already very complete, combines powerful and flat shots with more delicate ones, going through a fast-paced game at the net. “I like to be aggressive, score a lot of direct points. Mour style more or less resembles Federer’s.”estimated in February 2020 on the ATP website.

Like the players of the historic “Big 3”, Carlos Alcaraz learns quickly, a sign of amazing maturity given his age. His defeat in November 2021 against Hugo Gaston in the round of 16 of the Paris-Bercy Masters, before an audience totally devoted to the cause of the Habs, is one of the most striking examples of this. Carlos Alcaraz, who was leading 5-0 in the second set, completely lost track of the match before losing 6-4, 7-5. “I experienced a real mental block. He was overwhelmed, he no longer knew how to play ”, said in February The team (article for subscribers). “When I left, I cried, I had a feeling of helplessness. (…) After one or two days, she had become very cold. So I told myself that it was nice to have lived through this situation, to be able to accumulate enough experience so that it would not happen again, at least not in the same way.

Is “By far the game that served Carlos the most in 2021, assured Juan Carlos Ferrero. The former world number one and winner of Roland-Garros in 2003, he has trained Alcaraz since he was 15 years old.

“During the last NextGen Masters (which he won), in November 2021 in Milan, what Carlos wanted most in the world, even more than the title, was to be able to play immediately again against Hugo Gaston, and that says a lot about his personality.”

Juan Carlos Ferrero, coach of Carlos Alcaraz

at L’Equipe, in February 2022

Your student doesn’t seem like the type to take a big head. “I’m doing great things, I’m winning titles. So, inevitably, right now the people are talking about you, I try to take that easy and continue on the path that I have set for myself, “ underlined in Montecarlo at the microphone of “Tout le sport”, what “My dream is to be number one in the world one day” Y “win all the Grand Slam tournaments”. modest but ambitious.I can win a Grand Slam this year. And I’m not afraid to say it”entrusted in April to the Spanish sports newspaper Mark (article in English).

His race start fanfare also impresses the other players on the circuit. “It’s amazing what he does. At his age, I don’t know if he had an ATP point. With each game he shows a little more his enormous potential ”, said Italian Matteo Berrettini after his fifth-set tiebreak victory over Alcaraz in the third round of the Australian Open. “He is not the future of tennis, he is already the present”, Gaël Monfils assured for his part, impressed after his loss to him in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, in March.

Even Tony Nadal is full of praise for him. In case anyone has doubts, there is no more: Spanish tennis not only has a promising horizon, Carlos Alcaraz does. He is not only the current player but probably the best placed to succeed the ‘Big 3’ on the world stage.”wrote in September 2021 in a column published in The country (Spanish content for subscribers). In Spain he is already the new darling of the national press. When El País (article for subscribers) talk about “diamond in the rough to polish over time”, world sports writing : “Carlos Alcaraz, with his game and his personality on the court, already at only 18 years old, is the new and irresistible magnet of the public, wherever he plays”.

Will he continue his momentum at Roland-Garros? He tops the list of suitors, along with Nadal, Djokovic and Tsitsipas. History is ready to make room for it. In June 2005, Rafael Nadal, at just 19 years old, won his first title at Roland-Garros. It’s easy to imagine Alcaraz experiencing a similar fate at Porte d’Auteuil.

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