Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Alcaraz (back) on top of the world

Must read

Djokovic and fellow all-time great Rafael Nadal were inspirations for Alcaraz as the young Spaniard sought to reimpose himself on tour.

“Often when the best players have been out for a long time, they win their first tournament back,” Alcaraz wrote in a candid ‘Players’ Voice’ essay for Eurosport.

“I wanted to be one of those players.”

The 19-year-old has won 14 of 15 matches in 2023. He did not drop a set en route to the Indian Wells trophy, beating quality opponents including Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev in his final three matches. 

His 71-minute, 6-3 6-2 dissection of the resurgent Medevdev – who was enjoying a three-tournament, 19-match winning streak – was especially resonant.

‘The way that I play, they love to watch’

There were moments during his Indian Wells campaign at which Alcaraz attained an almost absurd level.

This point against Auger-Aliassime, and this one against Sinner, saw crowds and commentators erupt while sending social media into a spin.

Alcaraz recognises his capacity to inspire awe – and enjoys it. 

“I try to make the people enjoy watching tennis… I felt the love from the people. I think the US Open help me a lot to have a lot of people behind me, supporting me,” he said.

“But I would say, yes, the way that I play, they love to watch.”

Former Australian pro-turned-analyst Wally Masur has, like all tennis pundits, watched plenty of Alcaraz play during the teenager’s astonishingly rapid ascent.

The former world No.15 can see Alcaraz’s enthusiasm for competition shining through on the match court.  

“You’ve got to be willing to defend. You’ve got to want to defend, you’ve got to actually enjoy it,” Masur told ausopen.com.

“I see that in Alcaraz. And Rafa and Novak have certainly got it (too). Because they’re great athletes, it’s almost like their athleticism is on display and they want to test themselves in those tough points and situations. 

“What’s amazing about it is how complete Alcaraz is at his age.”

Alcaraz earning praise

That ‘completeness’ is a significant reason why Alcaraz has generated such excitement among observers.

Of the many plaudits Alcaraz receives, one constant is that his game style blends the best elements of the Big Three – Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer.

Alcaraz is most often compared to Nadal – both Spaniards achieved similar milestones at almost identical ages – yet Nadal’s long-time coach, Toni Nadal, noted Alcaraz was a more complete player than his nephew at the same age.

Some tennis commentators have seriously debated whether Alcaraz could match the Grand Slam winning exploits of this legendary trio – all of whom own at least 20 major singles titles.

Latest article