Alcaraz: “I’m not afraid to say that I think I can win a Grand Slam this year”. We thought we had already seen everything, instead …

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. We come from some decades dominated by three epochal, immense champions. We thought we had reached the pinnacle, hoisted ourselves on tennis Everest, admiring the history of the game from above. We thought we had seen it all. Then, comes Carlitos Alcaraz. And… in the blink of an eye you are forced to reflect, to question what you considered certainties or almost. In a few months Alcaraz has hoisted himself among the best, but what is sportingly troubling is the impact that the Iberian 2003 can have on our discipline. It could be an unexpected tsunami.

When many, including myself, thought they were entering an era of relative uncertainty, of passage, marked by great battles between multiple players for major tournaments and the throne of the ranking, well, Alcaraz could all agree. Dominate, and do it rather quickly.

Carlos had finished 2021 well. Those who were with me on the sidelines at the NextGen in Milan, looked at him in training, furious, and then in the game with the same intensity or even higher. He tried new, different things, increasingly offensive patterns that produced an overwhelming, all-court tennis with no waiting times. An uncompromising game, more and more projected forward to take the point. Strong of a grim defensive phase, but with deadly attack flames. “If he manages to play like this even against the big names …” was the dominant thought last November. However, it will take some time to adapt this speed and offensive propensity to the complexity and substance of the game of the best. Error. It didn’t take anything. Only an indomitable Berrettini and Nadal’s extraordinary heart stopped him this year. How many today can boast the strength and quality of Rafa? Nobody. Who has the power and service of the best Berrettini? Almost no one. This explains the “terror” that arouses you to see this Alcaraz.

I’ve seen a bit of tennis flow by since the early ’80s, but frankly I feel I find a boy of nearly 19 already so strong and so complete. Head, physique, blows. He has no obvious weaknesses, he defends incredibly or now he attacks from every position on the pitch. The only “defect” is wanting to “split the world a little, a gap that is erased rather quickly with the experience gained in the field when you have a head like his, which absorbs everything in an amen. Ditto for keeping the level so high. He plays tennis very well, offensive, full of adrenaline and courage. It could be an unexpected checkmate.

Carlos Alcaraz is climbing the world rankings with supersonic speed, thanks to an almost perfect 2022. 18 wins and only 2 defeats (Nadal and Berrettini, the only ones able to stop him after real battles), the first 1000 won yesterday in Miami. Results that lead him to n.2 of the 2022 Race. Continuing with this quality and intensity, it will be difficult to undermine him from the very first places, also because the competition is struggling between physical problems and various difficulties.

After the success in Florida, he spoke frankly to the national press. Carlitos does not hide: he believes he is already ready to raise the first Grand Slam.

“It was an incredible surprise to see Ferrero suddenly arrive. I didn’t expect him to come at all, I was hoping to talk to him on the phone before the final. With yesterday’s surprise I would say that I have already won having Juan Carlos by my side in this special moment. I won the victory at that moment ”.

Can I win Roland Garros? I would say that I am prepared, I have confidence, physical level, mentality. Maybe not to win Roland Garros, but for another Grand Slam this year. I’m not afraid to say it. There are Nadal, Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Medvedev, who are the best in the world and favorites for those tournaments, but I’m not afraid to say I’m ready to win one ”.

“Am I ever afraid? A lot! For example, I don’t like the dark, some animals, I’m not at all insensitive … “

“What am I different from the others? I am very dynamic, in a moment I can go from a defense to a winning shot. I have sufficient qualities that allow me to make a different shot every time. This is both good and bad, because sometimes you don’t know which shot to choose. But there are many players who play like me: aggressive, who go to the net. What is certain is that there are not many players who have so many weapons, who want to rush forward and take the point to the net. I would say that maybe I am also the player who does the most drop shots, yes ”.

Perfect analysis of his tennis. The difference is precisely in the speed with which he does everything, no waiting time, advance in the construction but also in the defensive runs, supported by an extraordinary technical completeness. The evolution of the modern player.

We will come back to Carlos very soon, admiring him on red and evaluating whether he is ready to oust Nadal from the throne of Paris. His words are not full of arrogance, he is not a braggart. It is the awareness of the strong, of those who feel inside that they are already ready to excel. The field is largely proving him right. We will see some really good ones …

Marco Mazzoni

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