Carlos Alcaraz Reveals Sensation at US Open

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The coming-of-age party and the fifth set tiebreak match ended on Friday night. 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz has finally finished throwing the towel in the stands of Arthur Ashe Stadium after upsetting Stefano Tsitsipas at the US Open. Fans marched up the stairs to the exits, individually or in small groups.

They were smiling, sometimes shaking their heads, saying things like “amazing”, “amazing”. In 2021, two teenage boys rushed towards their mother, waving their phones to show them side-by-side selfies with Alcaraz.

Another tennis star born? We’ll see. Great expectations can bring even ultra-talented young people into the world. But 55th-placed Alcaraz looked like the real deal against third-seeded Tsitsipas, smashing next-level hits, downplaying the pitch at foot speed, and embracing the big stage and moment with the same delight as Spain’s greatest player Rafael Nadal. he did in his youth.

It was a pretty good package and quite a third-round match: four hours and seven minutes of momentum changes, fast-twitch offense and defense, and raw emotion.

Alcaraz ended up lying on his back on the pitch where he had never set foot until he entered the nearly empty stadium to practice on Friday morning and looked up and up, five rows of stands.

“I took a picture with my team when I walked in,” he said in an interview in Spanish. “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe that this moment had finally come. The best court in the world in my opinion. Very big.”

It remains to be seen whether the field preferences will change if Alcaraz is regular on the center court at the French Open or Wimbledon. After all, clay is Spain’s favorite tennis canvas and Alcaraz’s first surface. But his bold play seems just right for bright lights and big, brash cities. Partly due to Tsitsipas’ malicious intent lately, he made his debut at Ashe Stadium to the fullest as the crowd roared for him. anti-vaccine stance and playfulness but also because of the incandescent state of Alcaraz.

He immediately put his teeth into the match and took a 4-0 lead, forcing Tsitsipas to adapt to the wild pace.

“The ball speed was incredible,” Tsitsipas said. “I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball this hard. It took time to adjust. It took some time to develop my game to his playing style.”

According to Hawkeye data, Alcaraz’s average forehand speed was 78 miles per hour: 3 miles per hour faster than this year’s US Open men’s average. The backstroke speed was 75 miles per hour: It was five miles faster than average.

No wonder Tsitsipas thought it wasn’t a safe haven, but he seemed to have fixed the problem when he won the second set and then took a 5-2 lead in the third set and took two service breaks. However, he lost the lead and the set in a tiebreak before returning to win the fourth set 6-0.

The logical thinking at this stage was that the kid was having a great day, but the best of five sets against the top three players would remind him how far he had to go.

So much for logic. Alcaraz continued to mix great ground kicks and deft drop shots, hitting high notes that the crowd provided nothing but positive feedback. The final score was 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 0-6, 7-6 (5).

“I didn’t expect him to level up that much, especially after losing the fourth set like that,” Tsitsipas said. said. “He was a completely different player”

You cannot fully prepare yourself for such situations. You have to experience them to learn what you are made of. Waving his index finger and pumping a fist, Alcaraz looked a lot like his element.

“Having the fans behind me and pulling me to win helped me get to that level in the fifth set,” said Alcaraz. “I wouldn’t have made it without them. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

It was quite the first US Open, quite the first New York visit, but Alcaraz has imagined itself here for years.

“I could see on TV that New York fans were passionate about tennis,” he said. “I wanted to experience it myself.”

He is from Murcia in southeastern Spain and from a tennis family. His father, named Carlos, was a good young player and later became a sports director at a tennis club in Murcia.

“I think we have sports in our blood in my family,” Alcaraz said. “We’ve all played since we were young.”

He started hitting at the age of 3 and soon won the national junior championship in Spain while playing against his elders. He earned his first ATP points at the age of 14 – at an extremely young age – at an event in Murcia. He played the professional tournament only because it was close to his home, but his potential was clear in the small world of Spanish tennis.

One of the greatest men’s tennis prodigies, Nadal was born and raised in a sports family on the Balearic island of Majorca and was not without local tennis role models. The French Open champion and the first Spaniard to reach #1 on the ATP rankings, Carlos Moya was also Majorcan and mentored and practiced Nadal in his early youth.

Alcaraz contacted Nadal. There’s no shortage of photos on the internet where they posed together when Alcaraz was young. They played on dirt in the second round of the Madrid Open in May, and Nadal won 6-1, 6-2. But if Alcaraz continues to catch the big games from the lapels, it looks like the comparisons will continue.

“Thanks to Rafa, I learned the importance of playing with high energy and giving everything from the first ball to the last ball,” said Alcaraz. “Even if I know it’s impossible, trying to get where Rafa went is also a huge motivation for me.”

The Spanish star who had the biggest influence on Alcaraz’s play is actually a former world No. Number 1 is Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“I knew about his potential, about his level, ever since I met him when I was 14, 15,” Ferrero said at the Open on Saturday. Said.

As the French Open champion and US Open finalist in 2003, Ferrero made a big move: a fluid baseline that unlocked rallies and issues of structure and consistency. Alcaraz is a serial risk taker who likes to resolve conflict with a single flick of his paddle, but shares one of Ferrero’s traits: quick feet. Alcaraz’s ability to run around the backhand and shoot forehands from the air is already world class.

“When you see an 18-year-old who can hit a ball this big from both sides and move so well, it’s close to being unique,” ​​said Paul Annacone, former No. 1 Pete Sampras and Roger Federer coach. “To me, his backhand is actually better than his right. He misses his front. He’s huge, but he misses him. He doesn’t miss the backhand much. Sometimes I wonder and I don’t mean it in a bad way, is someone who plays like that really fearless or has a tennis IQ yet? That’s unknown, but if you look at the tools the kid is using, it’s going to be pretty scary when he understands how to clear the pitch and how to use short angles and he doesn’t have to blow everything up.”

Balancing will take time and the next challenge will be to avoid a disappointment on Sunday, when Alcaraz will be favored rather than underdog against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, who is 141st in the fourth round.

“I know I have to take this round one at a time,” he said. “I can’t beat myself, but I think I have a great opportunity here.”

What is clear for now is that Alcaraz’s non-captive playstyle is not a reflection of his approach to life outside the arena.

“I’m relaxed, pleasant, always smiling and joking off the court,” he said. “I am the complete opposite of what I am on the field.”

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