The Age Of Alcaraz Is Here
We’ve waited over a decade for someone to challenge the Big 3 throne. That wait is over. Carlos Alcaraz is it. After watching his incredible back-to-back-to-back wins over the weekend, he might never lose again…Full stop!
Yes, I’m getting well ahead of my Nike Air Zoom Vapors, but what the heck. The Carlos Alcaraz hype is real and so far the hype is justified. Empty the superlatives bucket!
Once the Big 3 of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic move on (and we’ll be down to 2 in soon, maybe 1 by the end of next year), who’s going take over?
Is Alexander Zverev really going to win 10+ Slams? Daniil Medvedev? Stefanos Tsitsipas? Andrey Rublev? Matteo Berrettini? Felix Auger-Aliassime? Outside of Medvedev, these guys seem to be damaged goods right now. They are still young, so there’s time but the scar tissue is there. It’s substantial.
Alcaraz is newer. Like his contemporaries (future rivals?) Sebastian Korda, Jenson Brooksby, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune, he hasn’t dealt with and probably never will deal with the full force of the Big 3. Such demoralizing, high stakes defeats will never be burnt into his DNA.
Instead it’s wins. Big ones. He’s already got multiple Masters, a flawless 5-0 record in finals and wins over four of the Top 5, and he just turned 19 a few days ago.
There’s no slowing down, either. He’s improving at a rapid clip.
A year ago he was just a slight kid who had trouble getting wet in a rainstorm. Now, he’s a muscular man-child. And that’s been the difference. That added power and speed have put him and his game into a different class.
Alcaraz doesn’t play much at all like Nadal. The only similarity is they are from Spain (and rip the ball, but who doesn’t?). Comparisons are inevitable.
Nadal has the better, more consistent ground strokes, the net game and of course that mental fight. Alcaraz the better pop on the serve, maybe drop shot. But Carlos will never have that “lefty bonus”. That special forehand “buggywhip” and that kicker serve in the ad court.
A more apt comparison is that with his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. The two are very similar in size, speed, strokes and court positioning but Alcaraz has more zip, more variety though he lacks the consistency. Federer and Stan Wawrinka, are comps as well with their offense-first mindset, all court power and variety.
Ferrero reached No. 1 just in a nick of time before Roger Federer took over. Ferrero was more solid off the ground and smarter with his shots than Alcaraz currently is, but Carlos already has much more power and a far, far better serve. And that serve is such a difference maker as we saw in Madrid — Ferrero didn’t have the power to compete with the Big 3.
So the game is there and will stay there but if he cuts down on the errors, improves his shot selection then even greater achievements will come.
When Federer was evolving, he struggled with errors and the highs and lows. Djokovic had health/injury/belief problems early on. Nadal wasn’t sure of his knees and had questions about his serve and court positioning, but obviously overcame all of them.
Unlike a having a weak backhand (Andy Roddick), the lack of a huge weapon (Andy Murray) or a poor second serve (Zverev), making untimely errors is 100% fixable.
With Ferrero in his corner, I think Alcaraz will make strides in that area. An unknown, though, is his health. He does seem injury prone already but he’s still a teen, still is growing so he might need a few more years to let his body catch up and settle. That said, he had zero problems this weekend playing some 7.5 hours of destructive tennis (oh… to be 19!).
Alcaraz is also playing with house money, as they say. No pressure, no expectations, but’s that’s quickly changing and we have no idea how he’ll handle that plus the fame and the fortune that will follow.
So far so good, though, but it’s a long, long road and we are still writing the first chapter. At least after years and years of searching, it looks like we’ve finally found a true “Next Big Thing” in tennis. His name is Carlos Alcaraz.
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