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Carlos Alcaraz: “To be the best you have to beat the best”

After winning the US Open, the number 1 speaks to the Spanish media, including this newspaper, and reveals his challenges and fears

Carlos Alcaraz’s gesture is one of tired happiness or happy tiredness. He is perched on the 36th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, with a privileged view over the rooftops of Midtown and the domes of the Broadway theaters. Eighth Avenue spreads out at his feet, the pedestrians look like dizzy ants. He is at the top of tennis.

A few hours ago he lifted the US Open cup, his first ‘great’, and became, at 19, the youngest world number one in history. He is on everyone’s lips. He has dazzled the city of the luminous. He has made the city that never sleeps stay up all night. And half of Spain. In the second week of the tournament, he has given energy, emotion, spectacle, unforgettable points, comebacks, impossible races and many smiles.

Become the world king of tennis, talk to this newspaper and other media that have closely followed his footsteps in New York. He appears in skinny jeans, a sports jacket and classic Jordans. The night before, he celebrated the victory with family and friends in a Peruvian restaurant and that may add a point of fatigue to the beatings he has endured in the tournament. But he does not lack the smile.

During the US Open, it was not difficult for him to admit that his always dream was “to be number one”. Compliment. Also that of winning a big one, something that has resisted high-level players (the clearest case, that of the Spanish David Ferrer). What motivates you now? “Play against Roger Federer,” he says without hesitation. “Now I have few chances (the Swiss is already 41 years old and has suffered several injuries that make a return to the highest level very difficult), but it is something that I would like.” But Alcaraz stops, he reflects, looks into his eyes and amplifies his answer with more ambition. “And I think beating one of the Big Three at Grand Slam,” he says of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Federer himself. “I’ve always said that to be the best you have to beat the best.”

The best, right now, is him. For the best in history, who is ahead is Nadal, who has accumulated 22 ‘greats’ and who has not lost his competitive hunger. He demonstrated it this week in New York, when he assured that he preferred that Alcaraz not take number one, which he also opted for: “It is better that it is not because if it would not be me, there is no need to be a hypocrite,” he defended. .

Now, Alcaraz has just inaugurated his career for the number of ‘greats’, from which he is separated by a great distance from Nadal.

Do you prefer that Nadal no longer win bigger, to be able to put you closer?

No, what’s up, not at all. I will always be proud that Rafa wins ‘big’. And, obviously, if unfortunately I lose in a ‘Grand Slam’, I will be cheering for him to win. I will always be with a Spaniard and cheering on a Spaniard. And I’ve only won a ‘big one’, I don’t feel any closer to it. For now, I’m going to think about the second, that very few people have achieved it.

What many expected of you is beginning to be fulfilled. Do you feel chosen?

No. Nobody gives you anything, you have to work on things. Reaching number one has not been a bed of roses, but of suffering. There have also been bad times to get to this moment.

What are you scared of?

As a tennis player, I am afraid of letting him down. To disappoint all my people. To not be up to par. As an ordinary boy, I am afraid of many things. To the darkness. I’m also not a fan of scary movies. Spiders. And to many other things.

Where you are never seen with fear is on the track, how is your mental preparation?

I have been working with a psychologist since 2019, Isabel Balaguer. She is one of the main reasons why she can be number one in the world today. I have improved a lot thanks to her. Tennis is very demanding. Week after week, for a whole year you have to be mentally fresh, know how to withstand the pressure, that everyone has their eyes on you.

Does it also help you off the track? How to open up with people, with the media…

No, in that aspect I show what I am. But in the end there are also certain moments when it is a bit overwhelming and gives you advice on how to deal with it.

He said that you are proud to be Murcian and Spanish. Are you interested in politics?

No, the truth is that I don’t pay much attention to it. When the time comes I will see if I will vote or not vote. But I am proud to be from Murcia and to be Spanish. And I say it with great pride.

Now back home. What does he do outside of tennis?

I’m a very basic guy. The most basic is what I enjoy the most. Being with five or six friends sitting on a bench, in a car, in a house, talking, having a good time, laughing, telling each other anecdotes. That makes me happy.

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