Carlos Alcaraz - US Open 2023

Carlos Alcaraz ‘a one in a billion freak,’ says legend

John McEnroe has described Carlos Alcaraz as ‘one in a billion’ and urged young players to be careful about allowing his talent to dictate their career trajectory.

Alcaraz has made a huge impression in the ATP and has already won the US Open and Wimbledon despite being just 20 years old.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, is how he has won them, with his swashbuckling all-action style proving utterly thrilling to watch.

McEnroe is as big a fan of Alcaraz as anyone else, although he has warned that no other young players should be allowing themselves to think he is the norm.

“For every person you hear that succeeds, there’s a million that don’t,” McEnroe said. “Not everyone’s Carlos Alcaraz, he’s one in a billion. He’s just a freak.

“He’s an incredible player, but most kids have no business doing that.”

If not the Carlos Alcaraz route, then how?

McEnroe was speaking on the SmartLess Podcast in which he was discussing the development of young tennis players in the modern game.

He set up his own Academy in New York in 2010, and he has some very clear ideas about the danger of burning out a young players’ passion for the sport.

“I grew up in Queens,” he explained. “The best thing that ever happened to me was not going to a [Nick] Bollettieri-style camp. I would’ve quit the game at 16 or 17. I love to play other sports.

“All studies show, both physically and mentally, it’s healthier for kids to play other sports. This idea that you’ve got to go all in in soccer or basketball is a bunch of, can you say bull***t on this, it’s total BS.

“The truth is, what I base my beliefs on and what this academy is all about, that you should play other sports and you should come to this a little later. Tennis players are peaking later than they ever did.”

He also said more players should consider the College route as it is a more rounded experience than becoming hyper-focused on tennis too young, as is usually the case nowadays.

“I think college is an experience that not only do you get to play as a team potentially if you’re in a sport, but you get to grow up a little bit and also have some fun before you work your way into a profession, and you’ll be more prepared to handle it. So I completely disagree with what they do most often.”

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.