Do not escape Alcaraz: why a teenage feeling could be the next big thing | French Open 2022

For for more than a decade, men’s tennis has been looking for new stars to follow in the footsteps of its big three; Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. New generations have risen and fallen, waves of excitement behind some promising young players have long sprung up, while other extremely talented players simply have not measured their dominance. Deep in their 30s, Nadal and Djokovic have remained the safest bet to win the most grand slam titles in recent years.

In the twilight of their careers, however, came a new player who positioned himself to succeed more than any other before him, the Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz. Since winning his first ATP challenge match at the age of 15, Alcaraz has had eyes on his tennis and expectations on his shoulders.

Alcaraz grew up in El Palmar, a neighborhood in Murcia, southern Spain, and began playing tennis at the Real Sociedad Club de Campo de Murcia where his father, Carlos Alcaraz Gonzalez, was director of the tennis academy. Carlos Alcaraz Sr. was a modest professional himself, reaching a career high of 963 before retiring at just 20 due to lack of funds. He raised a tennis-playing family; Alcaraz’s 10-year-old brother, Jaime Alcaraz Garfia, is a promising young player in his own right who recently competed in the IMG Future Stars under-12 tournament in Greece. He has two other siblings; Alvaro, his older brother, and his younger brother Sergio.

In 2018, Alcaraz moved to the JC Ferrero Equelite Sport Academy, where he still lives and is coached by Juan Carlos Ferrero, the Spanish former world No. 1 who won the French Open in 2003, just a month after Alcaraz was born and just before Federer and Nadal began dominating. With one of Spain’s greatest tennis players behind him, Alcaraz made rapid progress.

At every age and stage of his young career, Alcaraz has stayed above the curve, setting age records straight or following closely many of the amazing accomplishments made by teenage Nadal. After becoming the youngest U.S. Open men’s quarterfinalist in the Open era last year, Alcaraz arrived in the new season by transforming his physique, putting on a sleeveless shirt at the Australian Open to highlight his winnings.

It took him to the next level. Winning the Miami Open, Alcaraz became the third youngest player to win a Masters 1000 event, the second most prestigious level of tournaments behind the grand slam, and last month he became the first player to win Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back. clay on the way to gain the Madrid Open.

Carlos Alcaraz bites the trophy after winning the Madrid Open in May.
Carlos Alcaraz bites the trophy after winning the Madrid Open in May. Photo: Paul White / AP

King Felipe of Spain saw Alcaraz defeat Nadal in Madrid, personally congratulating the teenager on his success in Miami. “I was more nervous [for] that call than the match, “said Alcaraz at the time.” It’s quite astonishing that the Spanish king congratulates you on the hard work you do every day, and on your victory. “

Between those two Masters 1000 titles and two other three-tier ATP 500 wins, Alcaraz compiled a 30-3 record in 2022. After being ranked 133 at the start of last season, he is now the sixth-ranked player in the world at 19 years old. . .

“He’s definitely special,” Djokovic said this month. “I mean, he’s already broken a lot of records as a teenager, you know, winning two Masters events this year, some 500. So far, he is the best player in the world, without a doubt, this year with the results he has made. “

Its popularity naturally exploded. After his triumph in Madrid, Alcaraz returned home to Murcia, where a large crowd gathered outside his parents’ apartment, causing him to step out onto the balcony and wave the trophy to adoring fans below. He was invited to Spanish talk shows and covered prominent magazines. His Instagram followers crossed 1.3 million and onwards. His matches have already attracted notable crowds at the Australian Open in January, but in Paris even his practices are the site of crazy audiences.

Carlos Alcaraz serves Sebastian Korda in their third-round match
Carlos Alcaraz serves Sebastian Korda in their third-round match. Photo: Yves Herman / Reuters

Alcaraz’s success stems from a more explosive, dynamic and complete game than most players his age. He already has one of the most destructive and heavy forearms in the game, while his shotgun, especially on his forearm side, is one of the focal points of his game.

His vast handicaps and shooting talent are combined with his superior athletics and defense, qualities that have produced countless incredible points that have further underscored his talents. Since his triumph in Madrid, the craze around Alcaraz has increased, and he has arrived in Paris, which a few bookmakers have been the favorite of the tournament.

At Roland Garros, his tournament almost ended surprisingly early. In his a second-round match against the smart, cunning Albert Ramos Viñolas he found himself a match point down on Ramos ’serve in the fourth set. Such is his penchant for the big moments, he not only saved the match point, picked up the break and took the fourth set, but later recovered from a 0-3 deficit in the fifth set. Somehow, even when he almost lost to World No. 44, his reputation grew.

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Although Alcaraz may be the safest bet among all the young stars who have appeared over the past decade, even now, when he stands as a top 10 player, nothing is certain when injuries, mental strife and other things can force him into careers. However, there is no doubt that he is on his way regardless of whether he fulfills his grand slam ambition immediately after this year’s French Open.

“I’m still young, but I’d say I’m a pretty experienced player now,” Alcaraz said. “I feel comfortable playing on a big stadium, big matches, playing on a grand slam. Physically I’m strong. Mentally I’m strong too. I think I’m ready to play such matches in these situations, these tournaments.” Then he shrugged. “I’m ready, yes.”

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