Carlos Alcaraz scratches his head, pondering: Should I play from the heart or do what needs to be done? This is about instinct versus necessity, the nature of his tennis versus the demands of the occasion. His desire to play for the people. In his breathtaking and seemingly unstoppable ascent to the summit of tennis, because there are no limits or opponents who can match him, except for the veteran Novak Djokovic, the Murcia native — who will play against Matteo Arnaldi in the last sixteen — is gradually overcoming the dilemma that has surrounded him since he was a boy in his teens. Should he play it safe or play to entertain? Perhaps it was because his maturing process is accelerating and the dilemma is gradually fading and he is becoming an ever more polished and decisive competitor, amazingly gifted in spite of his age. At just 20 years old, Carlos is not far from achieving perfection.
The experts unanimously agree. The Swede Mats Wilander stresses this in comments reported by Eurosport. “He’s very young, but you can see how relaxed he is, singing and laughing, with no sleeves. He’s very brave. I’ve never seen a player like that. I’m sure he’s thinking he’s got 12, 13, 14 or 15 years left in this and he’s going to win a lot. I think he has a very mature attitude, just like his game. He can do everything. He’s a fighter, just as much of a fighter as the big three. [Federer, Nadal and Djokovic]. I have never seen anyone like this, and I include these three. At this stage of his career, he’s on another level,” the Swedish player, winner of seven majors and almost always spot-on in his analysis, said in praise of him.
Saturday’s clash with Daniel Evans was eye-opening. When the Spaniard was two sets up and seemed to have everything under control, Alcaraz succumbed to the Englishman’s tactics and lost his way. He gave in to the temptation to indulge in an exhibition rather than an official match, but when the Brit sensed fear, Alcaraz snapped out of it and promptly beat him to a pulp.
“I always want to win, but at the same time I want to do things and entertain people when they watch my games. Sometimes I wonder if it’s more important to win or to do amazing things, but obviously it’s the first one. That’s what I ask myself....,” he explained to reporters; “I think I’m a different player compared to last year, I’m more mature. I had never played a Grand Slam semi-final before, but now I’ve played several and I have two [major] trophies, so I know how to handle different situations, certain rounds.”
By day, Alcaraz is shaping up in the way Juan Carlos Ferrero intended. The coach who has been training him since he was 15 years old watches and nods on, astonished at his faster-than-expected development. The coach has always sought to strike the ideal balance between his player’s skills and effectiveness, between avoiding unnecessary deviations and ensuring that the Murcia legend retains all the essence of his tennis; namely, the audacity, the showmanship and the brilliance that gets fans off their seats.
“It’s about respecting the genetics of his game, his DNA. It would be a mistake to restrict him. But it’s also necessary for him to understand certain situations and to learn to interpret the games well. Sometimes he has to play big, of course, and sometimes it’s better to be a bit more measured to close them down,” a member of his coaching team says.
Alcaraz is aiming to follow the Federer model of fun and efficiency in equal doses, while keeping his competitive edge. There have been more than a few scintillating tennis players, both eye-catching and entertaining for the spectator, with professional success that has not matched their quality. This is clearly not the Spaniard’s case. At present, his appetite is the greatest guarantee, and he repeats time and time again that his goal is not only to rub shoulders with the greats, but to overtake them. Alcaraz is developing at an unprecedented speed, according to the specialists, and he is a complete player in spite of his youth.
“I always feel I can do better, but I’m happy with my performance,” said the tennis player, who chose not to train at the Flushing Meadows facilities yesterday, instead opting to work on his fitness at the hotel. Arnaldi, a talented 22-year-old who has little to lose, faces him on Monday for the first time in the last sixteen and is making his first appearance at this stage of the New York tournament. Arnaldi is a late developer and has struggled to get off the ground. He has been trained in the productive Italian academy ranks — alongside the likes of Sinner and Mussetti — and has begun to make his presence felt this season. Ranked 61st in the world, he is 1.85m tall and a right-hander, who plays a two-handed backhand.
“When I saw the draw, my main goal was to play Alcaraz,” said the player from San Remo, while last season’s champion faces yet another test. After taking on three tough opponents, today he is up against an unknown quantity as he looks to advance in the tournament. Time and experience continue to shape the people’s champion.
ONE YEAR, ONE DEFEAT IN THE BIG
Time and time again, Alcaraz forces the history books to be revised. After the victory against Evans, they say that he and Arthur Ashe - the iconic tennis player who gives his name to the New York center - They are the only two players to have won 14 of their first 15 matches in the American tournament since the Open Era was born (1968).
Similarly, the one from El Palmar has recorded at least 15 wins in the majors for the second consecutive season and, at 20 years old, he is the earliest to achieve this mark. Only the Swedes Björn Borg and Mats Wilander (both also 20) resist the comparison; the first one got it between 1975 and 1976, and the second between 1983 and 1984.
Growing up on the main stages, the Spaniard has won 22 of the 23 matches he has played: seven in the last US Open, five in Paris, another seven in Wimbledon and the three he has accumulated these days. ace. Only Novak Djokovic (Roland Garros quarterfinals) has been able to beat him.
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