Will we be overwhelmed, in September 2037, to see Carlos Alcaraz lift the 30th Grand Slam of his career at Flushing Meadows? This moment of tennis fiction seems almost inevitable this Monday morning, as his first big coronation last night at the US Open against Casper Ruud shocked all fans of the yellow ball. Because at 19 years, 4 months and 6 days, Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest world number one in history, breaking a 2001 record, that of the Australian Lleyton Hewitt (20 years, 8 months and 26 days).
The identity of the predecessor of this primacy of precocity necessarily raises a question: will the young Spaniard be a comet capable of winning two Grand Slams in a year and then returning to the ranks? Or do we keep the ATP master in power for the next 15 years, a perfect league of the three Federer-Nadal-Djokovic monsters? 20 minutes look at three elements to try and project on after “Big 3”, which has never been as close as after this US Open.
A physical and a mental (already) infallible?
From his first important steps in 2021 (already a quarter at the US Open) to his first Masters 1000 won in Miami last April, then to his great successes in May in Madrid against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, we have always been impressed. the body and mind of the partner. “When he arrived at our academy he was 15, he was thin as a piece of spaghetti, remembers his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero. We had noticed that he had very fast arms and legs, but he had no muscles, neither in his back nor in his legs. This observation has changed a lot and you don’t get to the end of your dream by chance when you have to fight for almost a cumulative day on the courts (23h40 of playing time in this US Open, still a Grand Slam record). His opponent in the final Casper Ruud deciphered the phenomenon well.
I tried to take advantage of his accumulated fatigue [cinq sets contre Cilic, Sinner et Tiafoe]. But he’s young, recovering fast, and looking even fresher than ever. His mobility is one of his many weapons. It’s very fast. He can hit balls like no other. This sport has become so physically demanding. I think Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal have raised the bar on this aspect, and Carlos is kind of a mix of the two. “
A sacred compliment to which a steely mind must be added in key moments, which portends a bright future. Illustration in the final, to a set all over, during the turn of a shock about to change in favor of the Norwegian, when the latter was leading by 6-5. Despite the stifling stakes of a first career final, Carlos Alcaraz found the means to save two set points, harangue the crowd in stride and walk into the tiebreak (7-1) behind him. And this when he had so far lost his four decisive games played in New York. Don’t talk about age to the Iberian prodigy.
What is Alcaraz’s room for improvement?
Juan Carlos Ferrero’s statement on Sunday night must have sent chills down the backbone of the entire pro circuit. “I think he is at 60% of his potential, confided the winner of Roland-Garros in 2003. He can still improve many things. Once you are number one, it’s not over. We have to keep working, playing at a very high level and winning. He knows it, I know it and I will always be close to him to remind him. Given the quality of his New York fortnight, the boy shows no masses of flaws in his game, both spectacular and pragmatic, although he still happens to break free in the middle of a game in situations where the audience is pushing hard against him. like against Gaston last year in Bercy or against Paul in Cincinnati this summer.
When his kicks on the cushioned legs are at half mast, as in the final on Sunday, the new boss of world tennis, for example, did not hesitate to crush this facet of his game to win the fourth set with authority. Sur le sujet de ses progrès encore à effectuer, Carlos Alcaraz s’est fendu à chaud d’une réponse bien sobre et réfléchie: “J’ai une grande marge de progression du point de vue du mental, du tennis, du physique, de everything. ”It doesn’t sound like a young man with double consecration, does it?
Too young to last?
Rest assured, the boy from El Palmar, near Murcia, retains a sacred touch of freshness, as evidenced by his first reaction on Sunday. “He’s crazy, I never imagined I’d join him at 19, smiles the person concerned. It all happened so fast, I’ve dreamed of it since I was a kid, ever since I started playing tennis. It is incredible to leave a trace in history, my name. “But this definitive title has not yet been fully tasted, Carlos Alcaraz then quickly moved on to a press conference on the way forward to continue on the roof of world tennis.
What the Big 3 got [Federer, Nadal, Djokovic], i.e. maintaining this level for 20 years, is even more difficult. I don’t want to compare myself to them, I admire them. My first Grand Slam title and first place came very quickly, but I don’t have to stagnate or stay in my comfort zone. I have to progress, move forward and keep working hard. I want to stay on top for many weeks, hopefully many years. “
He will find a myriad of talents on the way to counter this ambition, despite the almost official end of the reign of the legendary trio consisting of Rafael Nadal (36 and current record holder with 22 Grand Slams), Novak Djokovic (35 years old) and Roger Federer (41 years old). But the new wave, embellished with its pinch of formidable youngsters in their good old days, looks pretty damn good, when we especially see performances at this US Open by Casper Ruud (23), Jannick Sinner (21), Frances Tiafoe (24 ), Nick Kyrgios (27) or Karen Khachanov (26). “What Carlos has already accomplished is impressive, and sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s just a teenager,” says Casper Ruud in admiration. But that’s the case, he’s one of those rare talents that pop up in sports from time to time. “
There is also an air of inevitable transfer of power (and 100% Spanish) in Rafael Nadal’s tweet for “Carlitos”: “Congratulations on your first Grand Slam title and your number one spot, which is the pinnacle. of your first big season. I’m sure there will be many more “. Changes to the royal throne were certainly the theme of the week.