In the world of racquet the very strong echo of Alcaraz’s victory in Miami does not go out. So much so that yesterday a curious and interesting debate took place on the web between former champions on which is the best surface for the young Iberian phenomenon. It was the well-known “serial tweeter” Brad Gilbert who talked about a possible great season for Carlos on red, with Kafelnikov confirming but also asking some doubts, up to Andy Roddick who ignited the debate, stating “But are you really sure that Alcaraz is better on clay rather than synthetic?”. His career is still very young, but currently his (extraordinary) overall percentage of victory on clay is 72% of the matches played, on the synthetic of 72.7%, practically identical.
Roddick continues: “I know we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt because he’s Spanish. However, we are just making a guess. It could be “a beast” on red. It probably will be. BUT, he plays more aggressively than most Spaniards. He likes to go on, etc. “.
In fact Andy is right, and personally, I think we need to go further. The stereotype of the Spanish “ferraiolo, grinder”, etc., is now more than outdated. If we take Bautista Agut, for example, he is one of the players who hits the flattest and cleanest ball of the tour… and Carreno Busta himself is a hard hit with better results on synthetic than on clay. It should also be emphasized that today the difference between synthetic and earth is much less marked than in the past – slower synthetic, faster ground. By now the training methods and the evolution of the technique means that the aggressive player from the baseline is very competitive both on clay and on synthetic, it is more a matter of attitude on the pitch and position rather than executive technique. There is a tendency to pull pretty hard everywhere, with fairly standardized playing patterns with few exceptions. The difference comes above all from the mix between game times, position, advance, with the shots at the beginning of the game that have become even more decisive in taking command of the operations.
This is why one of Kafelnikov’s responses to the debate is particularly interesting: “There are things that Alcaraz will not do on clay with the same effectiveness obtained in these tournaments on synthetic, such as the flat inside out acceleration on the opponent’s backhand, a blow with which he scored many points.“.
Juan Carlos Ferrero’s response on the matter is interesting. Basically, he has no idea! “We are not sure what its best surface is”, Ferrero says with a smile. “Sometimes we talk about this and he tells me at the moment he is not sure, because we started training on concrete a little over a year ago at the latest, so he still hasn’t competed as much as necessary in these conditions to express his maximum”.
“His game, his propensity to go forward many times, close on the net and always play aggressive, made me aware that his game could adapt wonderfully to this type of pitch and also to grass. So I think when he’s 100% trained, maybe he can give a little more on clay because that’s where he was born. But let’s keep the door open that maybe in the future it will be better on synthetic “ Ferrero closes.
Personally, I share the words of JC Ferrero. When you are born and grow up on a surface, and shape your tennis with those conditions, something stays inside you. His athletic and mental strength make him a formidable agonist, the perfect condition to excel on red. However Alcaraz is a player who represents a further evolution, as his way of being on the pitch, his continuous search for aggressive shots without waiting phases, and the ability to accelerate from every position on the pitch and with every shot , make him an all-out striker who blossomed on a born defender, a model of player like we have rarely seen in the past. With the blazing-fast synthetic fields (and balls) of the ’90s, things would have been different. Especially with the law, its opening would have been a little too wide; but with the current conditions, not so fast, it is a perfect ideal type for an aggressive, powerful and winning tennis even on the “hard”. After all, a player’s ability is to excel with the conditions of the moment. In this Alcaraz is truly impressive.