Carlos Alcaraz recently beat Nadal and Djokovic on Clay. Could this French Open be his?


PARIS — Future number one Juan Carlos Ferrero was 19 when he played with Roland Garros for the 1999 French Open qualifier tournament, but lost the first round.

His disciple Carlos Alcaraz is on a faster schedule. At 19, Alcaraz arrived in Paris as the 6th seed and one of his favorite players in a major draw.

With his all-action style, emotional Spanish teenager Alcaraz plays like he’s connected to a renewable energy source and has already won four titles this season. He beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in a row in a nervous duel in Madrid. It seemed as much a tribute to Alcaraz’s eagerness to fight as his brilliant talent.

On Friday, two days before the opening of the French Open, a photo of Alkaraz growling with his right fist clenched clenched in his fist took up almost all of the space on the front page of L’Équipe. French Sports Publishing.

Words come out naturally. Now is the time to see if the top-ranked Alcaraz can manage the moments and rigors of a best-of-five game in their sixth Grand Slam tournament.

“If everything is fine and there are no injuries, I think we are perfectly prepared for a best-of-five,” Ferrero said in an interview this week. He continued, “His character on the court is too big. He likes to hit the big points and big moments and he’s one of the few players you’ll see someone like this.”

It is the first time that a next-generation player has participated in a major men’s tournament with such a topic and momentum since the big three such as Nadal, Djokovic, and Roger Federer in the late 2000s took charge of the men’s game.

“I don’t think he’s under pressure, but we’ll see when the time comes,” Ferrero said. “I have that experience. I talk a lot with him. I think his will to practice and compete is the same as ever. So, let’s find out where his limits are. And let’s see if he has no limits on him.”

The 42-year-old Ferrero, who won the French Open in 2003 and finished first the same year, knows better than anyone the size of tennis tournaments. He has been coaching Alcaraz since 2018 at his academy in Villena, Spain. The desolate countryside near Alicante isn’t good enough to distract the long, modern attention from the dust and hilltop castles.

Alkaraz, a native of El Palmar, a suburb of Murcia, stops by the academy on weekdays when he is not traveling.

“It’s really quiet here,” Alcaraz said in a recent interview with Villena. “Here is tennis, tennis, and more tennis. The town is a five-minute drive, but in reality it is farther than that,” he said.

Ferrero has known Alcaraz’ potential since he first saw him in a low-level professional tournament in Murcia at the age of 14. Ferrero has taken a careful and prudent approach to developing Alcaraz’s game. They are obviously close. Ferrero surprised Alkaraz in the final After traveling to Spain after my father’s funeral.

The training focuses on highlighting Alcaraz’s various matches. He spends a lot of time on the net and transitions as well as the baseline. In terms of time on the court, the goal is quality over quantity, preserving Alcaraz’s body in the long run while emphasizing strength.

“The way you practice will affect the way you play,” Alcaraz said. “If you don’t train every ball with that intensity and seriousness, how will you know it in the game?”

Ferrero tries to capitalize on his experiences and mistakes. He made it to the top, but peaked at the early age of 23 and fell again with injuries and injuries to Federer and Nadal. After winning the French Open in 2003, he did not make more than three rounds there until retiring in 2012.

Ferrero sometimes overplayed without paying attention to his body signals, which influenced Alcaraz’s decision to withdraw from the Italian Open earlier this month after winning consecutive clay tournaments in Barcelona and Madrid. The goal was to give Alcaraz time to recover from a blister on his foot and a right ankle sprain he injured in Madrid, as well as a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris and the inevitable French Open question.

Ferrero said, “Let’s say he wanted to go to Rome, but he was thinking about the future. What’s the best way to get to Roland Garros 100%?”

After winning Madrid, Alkaraz returned home after a three-day vacation to El Palmar. wielding the madrid trophy Many fans gathered below him, including his parents and a group of drummers, behind him on the balcony of his family apartment.

If Alcaraz won Paris, you can imagine the fuss at El Palmar.

Ferrero said he had an unusually long training session (up to three hours) to prepare for a best-of-five match at Villena. On Tuesday, Alcaraz had one of the regular sessions at the academy with Spanish performance psychologist Isabel Balaguer.

“A lot of players get lost in the middle of trying to manage everything,” Ferrero said. “I think psychologists can help players a lot in a good direction.” “It helps build good habits on and off the court. Carlos doesn’t do much visualization. They talk about what happened to him in different ways, how to manage everything, how to keep his composure, and how to keep his feet on the ground.”

This could be as difficult as outlasting Djokovic at baseline, but Alcaraz emphasized that big success doesn’t have to lead to big heads.

“Tennis is always a team sport, except when you are on the court.

This moment in Paris shatters the memories of Nadal, the greatest Spanish prodigy, who joined Roland Garros as the 4th seed in 2005 and won his first Grand Slam title at the age of 19. Nadal’s working body was superior in its early stages. . He helped Spain win the Davis Cup in 2004 and arrived in Paris after winning five clay competitions in 2005. It was Nadal’s first French Open, as he missed the 2003 and 2004 tournaments due to an injury.

Alcaraz was only two years old at the time and did not obsessively hit the ball against the wall of his family sports club at El Palmar. Alcaraz, however, only remembers when Djokovic sub-breaked Nadal in the fifth set in the 2013 French Open semi-final.

“I watched a lot of tennis, but that’s my first clear memory of the game,” Alcaraz said.

Nine years later, he appears to be the biggest threat to Nadal and Djokovic at Roland Garros. Roland Garros is where they all are in the top half of the draw. Alcaraz is certainly home to hardcourt, which won this year’s Miami Open, but he grew up training almost entirely on clay.

He has already played at the French Open. He lost to veteran German Jan-Lennard Struff in the third round last year. However, Alcaraz’s game, strength and confidence have grown considerably since then.

“I see Carlos as a mix of the big three,” said Craig O’Shannessy, an Australian tennis analyst who joined Struff’s team last year. “You have the mental strength and tenacity of Nadal and the exquisite timing and willingness to come to Federer’s net. And you have an aggressive baseline play like Djokovic. He has the power and flexibility to hit hard on both sides in the backcourt.”

Alkaraz now says his goal is to win one of the three remaining Grand Slam tournaments in 2022. He committed a double fault on match points after losing to Matteo Berettini in the third round of this year’s Australian Open in a five-set tiebreaker.

“I think it’s the right time to lose,” Ferrero said. “Perhaps like Beretini we could have won and made it to the semi-finals, but a loss could have been useless.”

Four months later, after winning four titles, coaches and students were less inclined to see the bright side of defeat. Ferrero was already in Paris and Alcaraz did so in a room full of Ferrero’s trophies, including a small model of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, which was presented to the men’s champion at Roland Garros when speaking at Villena’s academy.

“They should have given him a big one.” Alcaraz said with a chuckle. “I’m a little young to remember some of these, but this place is full of memories and important trophies for Juan Carlos. It’s definitely an inspiration. I hope we’ll be able to fight or get over it someday.”

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