While Casper Ruud was surrounded by his people in the room reserved for the players and their teams, between waters and isotonics – two or three beers around, nothing more – Carlos Alcaraz savored success in New York with his family in privacy of the locker room. After all the rush and effort made over these two weeks, the Spaniard (19 years old) was noticing decompression and fatigue. It has been a full blast trip in which he has managed to escape several extreme situations, none like that match point that he saved in the round of 16 match against Jannik Sinner. A game that, by the way, served as the perfect showcase for the new cycle that is taking shape.
“Perhaps Sinner and Carlos can dominate the next decade if they maintain the level they showed the other day; Zverev, Ruud, Tsitsipas and Thiem will also be there, but with all due respect, that’s what I think”, Juan Carlos Ferrero introduced to the journalists, before his player took over from him at the microphone. The Murcian chatted happily, but tired. After all, to achieve success he had to invest 23h 39m, of which 5h 15m corresponded to the crossing with Sinner. It is a record record, since until now the one who had delayed the most was the South African Kevin Anderson, who spent 23h 20m in the 2018 edition of Wimbledon.
“I never would have imagined that I was going to win a Grand Slam at 19 years old. But I think that, as I am, it will not be difficult for me to keep my feet on the ground. I will continue to be the same boy as always”, pointed out Alcaraz, the tennis player who has won the most titles (5) and victories (51, for Tstisipas’s 46, second) this season. “I want to continue to be at the top of tennis for a long time, as the Big Three [Nadal, Federer y Djokovic]. For that you don’t have to stop, you have to go on and on, and that’s what I’m going to do, ”she said. “They are 22, 21, 20… I’m in line.”
Alcaraz is the twenty-eighth number one in history, the most precocious. “It is incredible to have that gap, but it is even more difficult to do what they have done Big Three, staying up there for 20 years, winning and fighting the one every year. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t want to compare myself to them because to do so is almost impossible, obviously, but I want to get there and be like them, even if it’s a small part, ”he indicated; “what am I missing? A lot. I still have a lot to improve in all aspects. I have to keep evolving, I can’t stagnate now. The fact that I have won a Grand Slam and number one does not mean that I have to stay in my comfort zone. I’m still hungry.”
Like Edberg and Kuerten
Before his speech, Ferrero – moved to remember the recent death of his father – had slipped that Alcaraz is today at 60%, and that he has a 40% margin to learn. “No one is perfect, neither is Carlos. He’s going to always have the little weak points about him. There are many things: the return, the serve, the backhand, the consistency, trying not to leave at certain moments mentally…”, explained the coach. And he shares his player: “I’m a 19-year-old boy. All this has come to me very soon. Many great matches that I have played give me a grade of 9 because a 10 is impossible. You can always improve”.
Until now, only two men – Stefan Edberg (US Open 1992) and Gustavo Kuerten (Roland Garros 1997) – had managed to win a major after signing three consecutive wins in five sets. There are already three. Alcaraz has achieved it based on tennis and, also, on that trio of elements that his grandfather instilled in him: “head, heart and coj ….”. Asked by this newspaper for the corresponding percentage of each section, he replied: “They are with me in every game, at every moment. I’ve played great tennis, but I’ve also been at a huge level of mentality, a huge level of heart, and a huge level of the other. [risas]”.
A “spaghetti” without muscle
Alcaraz says that this US Open has taught him above all else to “overcome difficult moments”, and that this is what has surprised him the most about himself. The Spanish came from a complicated summer journey, after having fallen in the first rounds of Montreal (first) and Cincinnati (eighth). “Perhaps he had lost the joy on the track, perhaps worrying about the numbers,” said Ferrero, who 19 years ago (2003) also managed to climb to number one; “So coming here I advised him to go to the net on every short ball, and I think that’s been the key.” The tennis player confirms: “I played happily, and that’s why I got the trophy”.
The coach emphasizes the simplicity of the boy and that he does not have a “second personality”, that when he arrived at his academy in 2015 he was a “spaghetti” and that he had no muscle, but things were already guessed different from the rest of the students , and that although he does not like some things too much, he lets himself be guided and “learns”. At the same time, Alcaraz emphasizes that “now is when I have to put in the most desire and the most work to keep myself there” and that he continues and will continue to be Carlitos, the town boy who meets his friends in the square: “I am proud to be Murcian, proud to be from El Palmar and proud to be Spanish”.