EXCLUSIVE: Three-time Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander explains how Carlos Alcaraz ‘confidence’ in special ability gives him his edge
Mats Wilander believes Carlos Alcaraz holds an all-important ability he himself had when he won his first Slam at Roland Garros as a 17-year-old in 1982.
However, Wilander admitted he might not be able to tell Alcaraz anything he does not already know about competing.
The former world number one said of the world number six: “I’m not sure I could give Alcaraz any advice.
“The similarity I see [between teenage me and him] is that he is very mature when it comes to trying to solve the problem.
“Playing his best while making his opponent play his worst.
“He seems unafraid of trying to find out ‘what do I need to do to play better’ and ‘what do I need to do to make you play worse’.
“There’s a confidence in his own problem-solving abilities.”
Fans might see the best athletes and particularly the world’s greatest tennis players as perfect physical and mental specimens.
On the other hand, Wilander clarified that that is by no means the case.
He used Alcaraz as a case study to show how the truth is far more nuanced.
Wilander said: “It doesn’t mean Alcaraz is going to solve the problem every time.
“it doesn’t mean that I solved the problem very often.
“But he seems to be fearless when it comes to trying to solve the problem, giving himself different choices.
“So he’s emotionally very mature, that’s the big difference with him and some of the other young players.
“He’s unafraid of going into the unknown, which should be the most normal quality of a professional tennis player.”
And Alcaraz has displayed that quality by his results in just the past year.
Before the Croatia Open in Umag in July of 2021, a tour level final was an unknown for Alcaraz.
Despite that, he defeated veteran Richard Gasquet convincingly 6-2, 6-2 to claim a maiden tour level title at just 18, the youngest man to do so since his idol Rafael Nadal in 2004.
Since then, the burgeoning superstar has reached a first career ATP 500 final in Rio and a first career Masters 1000 final in Miami.
As in Umag, Alcaraz again won both in straight sets, this time over top-20 opposition.
His two finals opponents were Diego Schwartzman and the at-the-time world number eight Casper Ruud respectively.
He then backed up those triumphs with a second ATP 500 title in Barcelona and second Masters 1000 title in Madrid, securing the latter just days after turning 19.
He also won Madrid by becoming the first man ever to defeat both Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same clay court event, and just the 12th man to achieve the feat at a single event on any surface.
Now, Alcaraz has a 4-0 win-loss record in tour finals.
In addition, he has won all four in straight sets, another unprecedented achievement on the ATP tour.
So, on the point of the quality of being unafraid of the unknown, Wilander continued: “But it seems to be the most unusual quality of tennis players and something that only very few players over the years have shown us, that ‘what I am at 18, 19 is the same mind that I am at 35, 36.’
“Very few players can do that.
“Alcaraz already has the mindset of a veteran, even though he has so little experience.”
The tennis world will know soon enough whether that mindset can translate into Slam triumph for Alcaraz at Roland Garros 2022 beginning 22nd May.
Watch every match from Roland-Garros live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport.
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