Carlos Alcaraz creates a sensation at the US Open

The coming-of-age party and fifth set tiebreaker ended Friday night. Carlos Alcaraz, an 18-year-old Spaniard, was finally done throwing...


The coming-of-age party and fifth set tiebreaker ended Friday night. Carlos Alcaraz, an 18-year-old Spaniard, was finally done throwing towels in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium after his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open. One by one or in small groups, the fans climbed the stairs to the exits.

They would smile, sometimes shake their heads, and say words like “amazing” and “unbelievable”. In 2021, two young boys ran towards their mother holding up their phones to show the selfies they had taken in the field with Alcaraz.

Was another tennis star born? We will see. High expectations can bring even ultra-talented teens back to earth. But the 55th overall Alcaraz looked like the real deal against third seed Tsitsipas, tearing up the top tier groundstrokes, making the pitch look small with the speed of its foot and embracing the big stage and the moment. with the same enthusiasm that the greatest Spanish player Rafael Nadal did in his teenage years.

That’s quite a package, and it was quite a third round game: four hours and seven minutes of swing changes, quick attack and defense, and raw emotion.

It ended with Alcaraz prone on the pitch he had never set foot on until Friday morning, when he walked into the nearly empty stadium to practice and looked up at the five levels of stands.

“When I walked in I took a photo with my team,” he said in an interview in Spanish. “It was spectacular. I couldn’t believe this moment had finally come. In my opinion, it’s the best court in the world. So big.”

One wonders if Alcaraz’s preferences on the pitch will change if he becomes a regular on center court at Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Clay is after all Spain’s favorite tennis court and Alcaraz’s first surface. But its daring play looks perfect for bright lights and rushing big cities. He fully experienced Ashe Stadium in his early days with the crowd screaming for him, in part because of the ill will that Tsitsipas has generated in recent times with his anti-vaccine position and sense of the game but also because of the incandescence of Alcaraz.

He immediately sank his teeth into the game, taking a 4-0 lead, forcing Tsitsipas to adjust to the fierce pace.

“The speed of the ball was amazing,” Tsitsipas said. “I have never seen anyone hit the ball so hard. Took the time to adapt. I took the time to develop my game around his style of play.

According to Hawkeye’s data, Alcaraz’s average forehand speed was 78 miles per hour: 3 miles per hour more than the men’s US Open average this year. His backhand speed was 75 miles an hour: five miles an hour faster than average.

No wonder Tsitsipas felt like there was no safe haven, but he seemed to have solved the problem when he won the second set and then took a 5-2 lead in the third, increasing two service breaks. But he lost the advantage and the set in a tiebreaker before coming back strong to win the fourth set 6-0.

The logical thought at this point was that the kid had had a great day, but this best of five sets against a top three player would remind him how far he needed to go.

Too bad for logic. Alcaraz started mixing huge groundstrokes and skillful drop shots again, hitting high marks with the crowd providing only positive feedback. The final score was 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 0-6, 7-6 (5).

“I didn’t expect him to raise his level so much, especially after losing the fourth set this way,” Tsitsipas said. “He was a completely different player.”

You cannot fully prepare for such situations. You have to experience them to find out what you are made of. Alcaraz, his index finger twitching and his fist pumping, looked very much in his element.

“The fact that the crowd is behind me and pushing me to win is what I think helped me reach that level in the fifth set,” Alcaraz told me. “Without them, I wouldn’t have done it. This is something I will never forget.

It was a very first US Open, a very first visit to New York, but Alcaraz has imagined himself here for years.

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

He is originally from Murcia, in the south-east of Spain, and from a family of tennis players. His father, also named Carlos, was an excellent junior player and later became the sporting director of a tennis club in Murcia.

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

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

Nadal, one of the greatest prodigies in men’s tennis, was born and raised on the Balearic island of Mallorca to a sporty family and had no shortage of local tennis models. Carlos Moya, the Roland Garros champion and the first Spaniard to reach No.1 in the ATP rankings, was also from Mallorca and was mentored and trained with Nadal in his early teens.

Alcaraz has had contact with Nadal. There is no shortage of photos on the Internet of them posing together when Alcaraz was still a junior. They played in the second round of the Madrid Open on clay in May, and Nadal won 6-1, 6-2. But the comparisons are likely to continue if Alcaraz continues to grab big games by setbacks.

“Thanks to Rafa, I learned the importance of playing with a lot of energy and giving everything from the first to the last ball,” said Alcaraz. “The challenge of trying to get to where Rafa has gone is also a great motivation for me, although I know it is next to impossible.”

The Spanish star who has had the biggest influence on Alcaraz’s game is actually Juan Carlos Ferrero, another former world No.1 who is now the coach of Alcaraz and runs an academy in Villena in Alicante.

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

Ferrero, Roland-Garros champion and US Open finalist in 2003, was a great driving force: a fluid founder who unlocked exchanges and problems of structure and consistency. Alcaraz is a serial risk taker who likes to resolve conflict with one stroke of the racket but shares one of Ferrero’s qualities: fast feet. Alcaraz’s ability to sidestep their backhand and rip a forehand into the air is already world class.

“When you see someone at 18 who can already kick the ball this big from both sides and move so well, it’s almost unique,” ​​said Paul Annacone, who coached former No.1s Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. “For me, his backhand is actually better than his forehand. He misses his forehand. It’s huge, but he misses it. The reverse does not miss him at all. Sometimes I wonder, and I don’t mean it badly, if someone who plays like this is really fearless or just doesn’t have a tennis IQ yet. This is the unknown, but if you look at the kid’s tools, once he understands how to open the pitch and use short angles and realizes he doesn’t need to blow everything up, it will be pretty scary.

Finding the right balance will take time, and the next challenge will be to avoid a disappointment on Sunday as Alcaraz will be the favorite instead of the outsider against 141st-ranked German Peter Gojowczyk in the fourth round.

“I know I have to take this turn based,” he said. “I can’t get ahead of myself, but I think I have a great opportunity here. “

What’s clear for now is that Alcaraz’s non-prisoner playstyle doesn’t reflect his approach to life outside of the arena.

“Off the court I’m a relaxed, nice guy, always laughing and joking,” he said. “I am totally the opposite of who I am on court.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Carlos Alcaraz creates a sensation at the US Open
Carlos Alcaraz creates a sensation at the US Open
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