Interviews, Comment & Analysis @RazMirza
How many Grand Slams will Carlos Alcaraz end up winning? More than Novak Djokovic? More than Roger Federer? More than Rafael Nadal? The world No 6 has already won two Masters 1000 crowns in Miami and Madrid as well as titles in Umag, Rio and Barcelona; he’s destined for greatness
Last Updated: 21/05/22 10:42pm
Tipped as the natural successor to ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal, 19-year-old wonderkid Carlos Alcaraz is fast becoming the next big thing in men’s tennis. Just how good is he?
With every shot in the book and a mentality to match, here is a player with the tennis world already at his feet and looks set to be a fixture at the top of the sport for years to come.
He has won four titles already in 2022 including the Masters events in Miami and Madrid, where he defeated the gilded duo of Nadal and Novak Djokovic before seeing off Alexander Zverev in successive matches.
Hailing from the southern city of Murcia, Alcaraz turned professional in 2018 and, under the tutelage of former world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, quickly announced himself as a serious talent.
Alcaraz already has a complete game, boasting powerful groundstrokes and the best drop shot around, but the most striking thing for a player of his age is his maturity on and off the court.
His best performance at a Grand Slam so far came at the US Open last year, when he reached the quarter-finals, but he is being touted as the most likely challenger to Nadal and Djokovic for the Coupe Des Mousquetaires.
Alcaraz makes no secret of his ambition, saying in an interview with Marca: “My goal until the end of the year is to try to win one of the three remaining Grand Slams. It is a great motivation for me and I will fight for it.”
Nadal may not be ready to pass the torch on yet but he has warmed up to the future of Spanish tennis and put an arm around Alcaraz, not just to encourage him but also to protect him from the media frenzy.
“If he’s able to win 25 Grand Slams, it’s going to be amazing for him and for our country, and I’ll be happy for him. But let him enjoy his personal career,” Nadal warned. “Don’t put extra pressure on him.”
Alcaraz is ‘the story of men’s tennis’
World No 1 Djokovic sees Nadal and Alcaraz as the main threats to his bid for a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam crown.
“We talk about favourites for Roland Garros and clay, you know that Nadal always has to be right at the top, because of his records particularly in this tournament,” said Djokovic, competing in a Grand Slam for the first time since his exile from the Australian Open.
“And then you have Alcaraz, he obviously is the story of men’s tennis in the last four or five months with a big reason.
“He’s had some tremendous leaps forward on rankings and the results that he’s been achieving are phenomenal for someone of his age. He has made a quantum jump really forward in the last five, six months.”
Young Spaniard’s power left Tennis commentator Barry Millns in awe
Millns, who witnessed Alcaraz lift the Next Gen ATP Finals in Italy last year, believes the teenager is going to be “absolutely huge” in men’s tennis.
“I think he’s fantastic,” Millns told Sky Sports. “I was lucky enough to see him in Milan and what he has managed to achieve on the Tour this year – winning Barcelona and going into the Top 10, which he achieved on the very same date and age as Nadal when he broke into the Top 10.
“We’ve seen how long Rafa has been there since and it wouldn’t surprise me if Alcaraz matches that ultimately.”
“I’m going to go with Alcaraz to get to the final. He already has such ambition and belief in his game and if he maintains his fitness and health he’s going to win these big prizes. Nadal won Roland Garros at 19, why can’t he?”
Commentator Barry Millns on Alcaraz’s French Open hopes
His coach Ferrero joked he is like the character of the Dragon Ball franchise, Son Goku, after the Spaniard exceeded his expectations in 2021.
After working alongside psychologist Isabel Balaguer, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the mental side of his game with his fitness and tennis progressing well ahead of schedule.
“He’s just an explosive and dynamic player who has a great attitude with a great team behind him,” Millns continued.
“You couldn’t ask for a better set up than this young lad has got. What he’s just showing is an incredible maturity from somebody who is still so young in his teens who is able to come and play and then beat the best.
“What he did in Madrid by beating Nadal and Djokovic on a huge stage in front of his own people was stunning.
“What left me in awe was his power. The likes of Nadal and Djokovic – the great players that they are – were being overpowered at times on the court. They were being forced back so deep and he has this amazing drop shot which is such a great part of the combination.
“I think he’s got it all. He’s got a great personality and he’s just going to be absolutely huge. He’s already a star in the game and it’s like he’s already superseding potentially the likes of (Alexander) Zverev and (Stefanos) Tsitsipas.”