Rafael Nadal is and remains the big favorite to win Roland Garros for the 14th time here next week. But what if the now 35-year-old Spaniard were to drop out in the near future? Will Spain have a successor? According to our man in Paris, his name might be Carlos Alcaraz.
Like a comet up
A Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreño Busta may be 10th and 12th in the world rankings, but chances to win a grand slam tournament are not immediately given to them.
Yet there is hope. Carlos Alcaraz, who has just turned 18, is considered by the insiders as the best-known successor to Nadal.
Alcaraz has skyrocketed like a comet over the past year and a half. At the beginning of 2020 he was in place 490, last week he started Roland Garros in place 94 and with his first 2 wins in the main draw he is already moving up to a place in the top 80.
Newcomer of the Year
Carlos Alcaraz started playing tennis at the age of 4, as a youth player he didn’t immediately stand out, but 3 years ago, he helped Spain win the Junior Davis Cup as a 15-year-old. It was the start of a fairytale-like story.
Alcaraz moved from El Palmar near Murcia to Villena near Valencia where he went to train in the Equilite Sport Academy of ex-number 1 and ex-Roland Garros winner Juan Carlos Ferrero.
The Equilite Academy has been the cream of the crop for years, comparable to the academies of Rafael Nadal and Patrick Moratoglou. In the past, David Ferrer, Justine Henin, Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova, among others, came here to prepare for the clay-court season. Now Dominic Thiem and Carreño Busta are regular guests.
Ferrero accompanied Alexander Zverev for a while and took Alcaraz under his wing in 2019. Success came quickly. Last year Alcaraz won 3 challengers and was named Newcomer of the Year.
At the beginning of this year, as a 17-year-old, he made it through the Australian Open qualifiers and won his first main draw match. Only Federer, Djokovic and Nadal did that for him.
Golf and gaming
The past few weeks have been great with a semi-final in Marbella, a Challenger title in Oeiras and the series in Paris. Carlos Alcaraz is now on clay in 10 wins in a row.
Juan Carlos Ferrero sees the potential of Alcaraz: “Carlos likes this
definitely aiming for the top 50 this year. He has a great mentality and his shots are already good. He is humble and works hard.”
“He must be aware that his actions off the track also affect the results on the track. So, pay attention to the right nutrition and enough rest”, says the former topper.
“He is passionate about his sport, but he also has to make time for relaxation. He finds it in golf and video games”Ferrero says.
“I help Carlos in all aspects. In this way I teach him to deal with the stressful moments in a match, with the better timing of his strokes. He is still young and has a lot of margin.”
“I can see that he handles the crucial moments in a match well, that he enjoys it. And that’s fine. He reminds me a bit of Roger Federer, he can handle all kinds of surfaces.”
Former Roland Garros winner Juan Carlos Ferrero accompanies the Spanish top talent: “He reminds me a bit of Roger Federer.”
Nadal is vol lof
A few weeks ago, on his 18th birthday, Carlos Alcaraz first played against his idol Rafael Nadal in Madrid. In January, during the mandatory quarantine in Melbourne, Alcaraz had devoured Nadal’s biography.
It was a heavy defeat in Madrid because 6-1 and 6-2, but Alcaraz
thought it was a great birthday present. . And the maestro had words of praise afterwards: “I see that Carlos has all the ingredients to become a major player. He is one of the men who has the right mentality to fight for the biggest titles.”
“Carlos lost a lot, but he wasn’t negative for a second on the track. He had the right attitude”Nadal continued. “You can also see that he has a good relationship with his team.”
“The strokes are fine, only the storage could be more stable. But it’s good for Spain to have someone like that again. He has the passion, is humble and he works hard.”
I see that Carlos has all the ingredients to become a major player. He is one of the men who has the right mentality to compete for the biggest titles.
Carlos Alcaraz: “I go for it”
Carlos Alcaraz himself remains modest, but at the same time ambitious: “We worked very hard last winter. I feel physically stronger. I can hold the top level longer.”
“Juan Carlos Ferrero tells me every day to play aggressively at the crucial moments. I try to do that.”
“Many players are extra tense at the important moments and wait for the opponent’s mistake. I’ll just go for it then. That’s the right way. Then I end the point the way I want. That’s how I put pressure on the opponent.”
“Ultimately, the goal is to compete for the titles at the grand slam tournaments and become number 1. The road is still long, but I believe in it 100 percent.”