OPINION: Carlos Alcaraz appears to be a great-in-waiting
It’s never easy, nor fair, to follow greatness. It never has been. The prism through which everything is judged is defined by what has directly gone before it. It is a reality that is facing Carlos Alcaraz, though, and it’s one he cannot escape.
That is probably just as well too, because he appears determined to meet the challenge of being judged against legends head on regardless.
As tennis fans, there is no question that we have been truly blessed in the last 20 years. To have one true great in that time would have been a privilege. Getting three of them has been unreal.
Roger Federer’s time on the APT Tour has passed, of course, and Rafael Nadal is facing some challenges in extending his to any large degree. Novak Djokovic looks as good as ever, but time will get him sooner rather than later.
In fact, you could argue that Andy Murray deserves to be called a great too based on the quality of his tennis and achievements. Had he played in another era, it’s frightening to think what he could have done.
The fact we have had so many at the same time has spoiled us into thinking these kind of players can be expected. The emergence of Carlos Alcaraz will do nothing to stop that myth because, without question, we are looking at the emergence of greatness once again.
Alcaraz won Indian Wells last week to win his third Masters and 11th career title overall. One of those is a Major, and his success in Tennis Paradise was enough to see him become the world number one for the second time in his career. He is 19 years old.
Granted, Nadal and Djokovic miss a few tournaments now for different reasons, but Alcaraz is still doing it in their era. At Indian Wells he had to go through players such as Jack Draper, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and a supremely in-form Daniil Medvedev. He didn’t drop a set against any of them.
None of them are Nadal or Djokovic, but if we can cast our mind back to Madrid last year we will remember that on that occasion he proved he can win a Masters with both of them in the draw. In fact, he beat them both, back-to-back, and polished off Alexander Zverev in the final as well.
A jaw-dropping ROCKET! 🚀@carlosalcaraz | #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/Ze4oqcp1xt
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 20, 2023
What is perhaps most exciting, and revealing, about Alcaraz though is not what he is sinning but how he is winning.
Just going back to Nadal, Djokovic and Federer again, a key element of their greatness was that they all play the game in their own unique way. Each one of them poured their personality into their tennis and the result was something completely unique. That is what makes it a spectacle every time one of them steps onto a tennis court.
The same can be said of Alcaraz. For all the ATP Tour is blessed with a plethora of incredibly talented young players now, can you honestly say they create a must-see spectacle just by playing their natural game? They are all capable of great matches, but that is a different thing entirely.
Alcaraz only needs to pick up a tennis racket to cause excitement because he can do things that others cannot. In fact, he can do things that very few have ever been able to do. His power and accuracy on the run, for example, is just out of this world and his intensity, aggression and raw daring on a tennis court would be brilliant individually, never mind being able to produce them simultaneously.
You are loathe to make predictions because you never know what’s going to happen. Juan Martin del Potro is a perfect example of that. What might have been had injury not ravaged him?
Still, all the signs are pointing towards tennis finding another incredibly special talent. The question now is whether tennis has another one up its sleeve in the next couple of years to rival him. Because, if not, it is genuinely frightening what Carlos Alcaraz can achieve.
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