Phenomenon of the year 2022 and even more generally of the past year, Carlos Alcaraz, once is not custom, had landed a little on the sly on this Wimbledon. The fault of a little elbow pain because of which he had preferred to limit his season on grass to the bare minimum, forfeiting Queen’s and settling for two small exhibition matches lost at Hurlingham against Frances Tiafoe and Casper Ruud. Nothing to cheer about or, despite his status as seeded No. 5, consider him a favorite in a Grand Slam that he is only playing for the second time (beaten in the second round by Medvedev last year). Hardly a spoilsport, or a curiosity.
May Carlos forgive us for this offense: it was without counting his incredible rebound strength and this fascinating ability of the (seeds of) great champions to adapt to everything, to learn from it every day and to always bring out the best. themselves in the most tense situations. In the case of Alcaraz, we think of this brilliant point, this subtle defense punctuated by an improbable little one-handed slipped backhand passing, when he was down 2 sets to 1, 2 points to 0 in the tie- break from the 4th set in the 1st round by Jan-Lennard Struff:
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If he had lost this point, like probably 95% of the players on the circuit, it’s a safe bet that Alcaraz would also have lost the match and no one would have cried foul: having “faded” Struff in the 1st round of Wimbledon, especially in the context that we depicted at the start – not to mention the overall context of this Grand Slam devoid of Russians, Belarusians and ATP points – was anything but a gift. It was even the perfect trap.
An entry test, then he put the turbo
But because he is not made of ordinary gasoline, Alcaraz got away with it (4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4). And since then, he has resumed his massive demolition business interviewed this year according to the tournaments he won in Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid: three small sets against Tallon Griekspoor (6-4 7-6 (0 ) 6-3) and three small sets, even more masterful (6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in barely 1h30) against Oscar Otte (seed n°32), yet not a partridge of the year on grass after its semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle. All while committing only eight unforced errors and performing this nice gesture of fair play:
“I played amazingly, it was definitely the best game of my life on grass,” rejoiced the Murcian, who cannot however be taxed as a self-satisfied player. With all this, Carlos Alcaraz casually became, at 19 years and 66 days, the youngest player to reach the knockout stages at Wimbledon since Bernard Tomic in 2011 (quarter-finalist at 18 years and 255 days). And as in general, his most beautiful references bring us back to Rafael Nadal, here is a performance that his prestigious elder had not achieved: Nadal did not reach the second week in London before his 20th birthday (Boris Becker being the last “teenager” winner in London in 1986).
From there to say that Alcaraz is, like Nadal, a potential (double) winner of Wimbledon, there is a step that we will not yet cross. But that one is tempted to begin to initiate. Sometimes considered, after his quarter-final at the US Open last year, as a Spaniard more comfortable on hard courts, he then showed on clay that his tennis as a mover was just as deadly there. There were then some doubts on grass. He is sweeping them away too, with just as much mastery.
Every game, every training, I learn how to play better and move better on the grass
When asked the secret that allowed him to turn into a specialist in the discipline in a few days, the protege of Juan Carlos Ferrero (quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2007 and 2009) smiles and simply answers: “Wimbledon gives you a special energy and I try to improve myself all the time. Every day that passes, in every game and in every practice, I learn how to play better and move better on grass. On grass, you have to be more aggressive than elsewhere, getting into the net, above all not letting the opponent dictate the game. That’s what I’ll try to do the next day.”
He will have to because a big client of his generation is waiting for him this Sunday: Jannik Sinner (20), who could be placed in the same category of particularly studious herbivore apprentices since he had never won a match on grass until there and finds itself this year in the round of 16 at Wimbledon. And this at the end of a “heavy” first week, marked by successes against Stan Wawrinka and John Isner in particular.
Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner will meet in the round of 16 at Wimbledon this Sunday.
A match that smacks of tomorrow’s tennis but whose winner will possibly have to face the best, at least on grass, in today’s tennis: Novak Djokovic, as long as the latter gets rid of the surprising Tim Van Rijthoven. Obviously, when you have in front of you a possible Sinner-Djokovic sequence (not to mention the rest), the time has not come to look too far. But the converse is also true: when you cross paths with Carlos Alcaraz, even on grass now, it’s impossible to draw shots on the comet. Better to trigger the red alert instead.
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