It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Carlos Alvaraz won at Wimbledon last Sunday. After all he was the top seed. However, the five-set win over the Novak Djokovic, arguably the front runner for the G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) in tennis, has made the world see him in a totally different light – the beginning of an era and on the path to greatness. And he is all of 20yrs old. The best testimony came from Djokovic himself when in the post match press conference he referred to Alcaraz having the best of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and himself, the trio who ruled the game for the past two decades. That might be a lot for the boy to live up to but he is arguably the most exciting prospect the game has ever seen. The Guardian did a piece a couple of months ago on Alcaraz’s journey so far.
“At a time when modern tennis has become dominated by attritional rallies from the baseline, one of the defining aspects of Alcaraz’s success is the way he has achieved it. He burst into the sport playing dynamic, creative all-court tennis, demolishing forehands, smothering opponents with an unending stream of drop shots and constantly looking to flit forward to the net.
… The variety in Alcaraz’s game is courtesy of his very first coach, his father, who taught him sound technique on each shot. But Sarria notes that all players at the academy are taught in the same way. The difference between Alcaraz and many of his peers was his willingness to implement them in matches, which allowed him to quickly become comfortable with his arsenal of shots.
“Carlos has always had the virtue from the beginning that all that he trained, he also did it in matches,” says Sarria. “So for him it was natural, even at eight years old, to spend half a match at the net. No eight-year-old spends half a match approaching the net because they know they’re going to get lobbed and passed.””
He is a refreshing change for some of us who long for the good old serve and volley game on grass courts.
But what stood out last Sunday was his mental strength and his ability to remain calm under pressure, against one of the game’s greatest, if not THE greatest.
“His mastery of variety and touch is also directly related to his precocity. Alcaraz’s uncle, Tomás, often tells the story of when he took him to his first tournament at five years old. Alcaraz competed against an opponent two to three years his elder, and much taller. They played with adult balls rather than the depressurized balls normally reserved for players his age.
Each time the ball bounced, it would fly over Alcaraz’s head. After losing the first set easily, at five he still had the wherewithal to adapt: “Instead of letting it bounce, he moved into the forecourt and volleyed every shot, hitting the ball without letting it bounce,” says Sarria. “And he almost won the match because he had the skill [and] he had the resources to say: ‘Well, I can’t win like this, I’m going to win this other way.’””
That has also resulted in his ability to adapt himself to the demands of the game:
“While many aspects of the 20-year-old’s game remain technically identical to when he was younger, there have been notable changes, including his serve and backhand. There was enough concern about the progress of Alcaraz’s backhand that there were even discussions within his camp about switching to a single-handed backhand.
Despite Alcaraz striking the single-hander well, Navarro and the rest of his team were ultimately against the change. Such episodes were reflective of his adaptability and the ease with which he learned new skills.
“There was an issue with the serve; if you look at old video, he used to serve with his feet apart. It was very easy to change it. If you say: ‘Carlitos, hit with one hand,’ he will hit with one hand. This boy was born to be a tennis player, to be No 1,” says Navarro.”
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