Will we be captivated, in September 2037, to see Carlos Alcaraz lift the 30th Grand Slam of his career at Flushing Meadows? This tennis fiction moment seems almost unavoidable this Monday morning, as his first major coronation gleaned last night at the US Open against Casper Ruud upsets all yellow ball enthusiasts. Because Carlos Alcaraz has at the same time become at 19 years, 4 months and 6 days, the youngest world number one in history, by surpassing a record dating back to 2001, that of the Australian Lleyton Hewitt (20 years, 8 months and 26 days).
The identity of the predecessor for this precocity record necessarily raises a question: will the young Spaniard be a comet capable of winning two Grand Slams in one year and then returning to the ranks? Where do we hold the master of theATP in power for the next 15 years, a perfect alloy of the three monsters Federer-Nadal-Djokovic? 20 minutes looks at three elements to try to project itself on the after “Big 3”, which has never been so close as after this US Open.
A physical and a mental (already) foolproof?
From his first notable steps in 2021 (already a quarter at the US Open) to his first Masters 1000 won in Miami last April, then in his major successes in May in Madrid against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, we have always been impressed by the physique and the mind of the guy. “When he arrived at our academy, he was 15, he was as thin as a spaghetti, recalls his trainer 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 go 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 on this US Open, again a Grand Slam record) . His opponent in the final Casper Ruud deciphers the phenomenon well.
I tried to take advantage of his accumulated fatigue [cinq sets contre Cilic, Sinner et Tiafoe]. But he’s young, he’s recovering fast and he even looked fresher than ever. Its mobility is one of its many weapons. He is very fast. He can hit balls like no other. This sport has become so physically demanding. I think Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal set the bar high on that aspect, and Carlos is kind of a mix of the two. »
A sacred compliment to which must be added a steely mind at key moments, which augurs a bright future. Illustration in the final, at one set everywhere, during the turn of a shock about to switch in favor of the Norwegian, when the latter was leading 6-5. Despite the suffocating stakes of a first career final, Carlos Alcaraz found the means to save two set points, to harangue the crowd in stride, and to walk in the tie-break (7-1) behind . And this when he had so far lost his four decisive games played in New York. Do not speak of age to the Iberian prodigy.
What is Alcaraz’s room for improvement?
Juan Carlos Ferrero’s statement on Sunday evening must have sent chills down the spine of the entire professional 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’re 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 fortnight in New York, the boy does not display masses of faults in his game, both spectacular and pragmatic, even if he still happens to unpin in the middle of a match in situations where the public pushes hard against him, as in front of Gaston last year at Bercy or against Paul at Cincinnati this summer.
When his kicks on amortized paws are at half mast, as in the final on Sunday, the new boss of world tennis, for example, did not hesitate to zap this facet of his game to win the fourth set with authority. On the subject of his progress still to be made, Carlos Alcaraz cracked open with a very sober and thoughtful answer: “I have a lot of room for improvement from the point of view of the mind, tennis, physique, everything “. Doesn’t sound like a young man with double consecration, does it?
Too young to last?
Rest assured, the kid from El Palmar, near Murcia, keeps a sacred touch of freshness, as evidenced by his first reaction on Sunday. “It’s crazy, I would never have imagined achieving it at 19, smiles the person concerned. It all happened so fast, I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a child, since I started playing tennis. It’s amazing to leave a trace in history, my name. “But this ultimate title not yet really savored, Carlos Alcaraz therefore quickly switched in a press conference on the way forward to continue on the roof of world tennis.
What the Big 3 achieved [Federer, Nadal, Djokovic], namely to maintain 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 the number one spot came very quickly, but I must not stagnate or stay in my comfort zone. I have to progress, keep going and keep working hard. I want to stay on top for many weeks, hopefully many years. »
He will find a plethora of talents on his way to thwart this ambition, despite the almost official end of the reign of the legendary trio composed of Rafael Nadal (36 years old and current record holder with 22 Grand Slams), Novak Djokovic (35) and Roger Federer (41). But the new wave, embellished with its pinch of formidable young-olds in their good times, looks damn good, when we see in particular the performances on this US Open of Casper Ruud (23 years old), Jannick Sinner (21 years old), Frances Tiafoe (24), Nick Kyrgios (27) or Karen Khachanov (26). “What Carlos has already accomplished is impressive, and it is sometimes hard to believe that he is only a teenager, underlines a Casper Ruud admiring. But that’s the case, he’s one of those rare talents that pops up from time to time in the sport. »
Moreover, there is an air of an inevitable (and 100% Spanish) transfer of power in Rafael Nadal’s tweet for “Carlitos”: “Congratulations on your first Grand Slam title and on your number one spot, which is the culmination of your first great season. I’m sure there will be many more.” Changes to the royal throne were definitely the theme of the week.