Carlos Alcaraz – Flash in the Pan, or Here to Stay?
It’s not often you hear two tennis analysts agree that a nineteen year-old is the favorite heading into a Grand Slam.
In fact, the last time that happened, it was most likely in reference to Rafael Nadal.
And yet, last week, both Jim Courier and Andy Roddick sheepishly admitted on the Tennis Channel that Carlos Alcaraz was their favorite to win Roland Garros 2022, despite the fact that he’d just turned 19, and was ranked outside the world’s Top 100 this time last year.
So the question is: Will Alcaraz emulate the record-breaking success of his compatriot Rafael Nadal, or will he fade away, like many of the other once-hyped Next Gen stars have over the past five years?
Here are three reasons why we believe Carlos Alcaraz is here to stay:
A well-rounded game has been the basis of Alcaraz’s success
Many of the young talents that have risen quickly over the past years, yet failed to sustain their success, have had games built around one significant weapon. Think booming forehand, rocket serve, killer backhand down the line, fast pair of wheels.
While weapons like these can catapult a player up the ranks, they inevitably lose their effectiveness, as other players on the tour figure out how to neutralize them, and holes in the rest of their game get targeted.
Alcaraz, however, has not relied on one such weapon in his meteoric rise to number six in the men’s tennis rankings. Yes, he consistently hits groundstrokes in excess of 100 mph. Sure, he’s one of the fastest one tour. And of course, that dropshot is lethal.
But none of these are his only recipe for success. Alcaraz’s results have come from combining these strengths, rather than disproportionately leaning on one over the other.
Alcaraz has the right temperament to handle the big stage
Alcaraz is very much an unknown substance when it comes to the pressure of a Grand Slam final.
However, evidence from his brief career so far indicates that he has the mindset and ability to handle pressure in a way far exceeding other young talents that have gone before him.
How’s this for a statistic: Alcaraz is 5-0 in Tour level finals.
While many of the highly-rated Next Gen stars have choked in big moments, failing to have the necessary temperament to rival that of the Big Three under pressure, Alcaraz seems to be a different beast. When faced with adversity on the court, he rises to the occasion—a fact which is epitomized by his increased use of the dropshot in tiebreaks, a notoriously difficult shot to play under pressure.
Of all the young stars who have come and gone, Alcaraz seems to be cut from a different cloth when it comes to handling the big moments.
The character of Alcaraz
You might think a player’s skill on the tennis court would dictate their ability to succeed in the sport, but history has shown us more than that is required.
Alcaraz is not only an incredibly skilled tennis player, he also seems to be a decent human being too.
While other young players have gone astray with fame, displayed nasty behavior on court, become entitled with their stardom, or angry, nervous wrecks under the pressure of succeeding, Alcaraz seems to be none of that.
Last week in Madrid was a perfect example—serving on a pressure point, late in the third set, a baby started crying in the crowd, just as Alcaraz was getting ready for his ball toss. Not to name names, but plenty of other players have been known to handle this kind of interruption poorly.
Alcaraz, though, cracked a big smile and laughed, catching his opponent’s eye to share the moment.
This is just one example of what seems to be a solid character underneath Alcaraz’s talent. Without a doubt, the coaching of Juan Carlos Ferrero will have gone a long way to keep the young Spaniard grounded, developing maturity beyond his years; but ultimately, it seems he is just a nice person deep down.
This goes a long way in life, and it looks like Alcaraz will be going a long way in tennis too.