Carlos Alcaraz earns reputation as tennis ‘Next Nadal’

The short-tempered, fast and scrappy Spaniard will be among a short list of strong favorites at the French Open, which begins on Sunday.

And we’re not talking about French kingmaker Rafael Nadal, winner of a record 13 titles on Roland Garros red clay.

After his coming-out bash at the US Open last September when he advanced to the quarterfinals as an 18-year-old, Carlos Alcaraz has taken tennis by storm – and dirt – in 2022. He is branded as “The Next Nadal”. ‘

Except for Mary Carillo, the legendary tennis announcer who will announce the French Open for NBC, who says the teenage stud has the upper hand over Nadal in one division.

“That could be a bias of the actuality because I’ve been at this for a long time,” Carillo told the Post. “I swear to God Carlos Alcaraz is the fastest player I’ve ever seen. That’s not even an exaggeration. It’s remarkable.

“It’s not just foot speed, it’s footwork. The way he manages the pitch and reacts to anything short and just gets back on the pitch. He moves so well in the corners, comes in and out and goes on the offensive so quickly. He is a miracle.”

Carlos Alcaraz competes at the 2021 US Open.
Carlos Alcaraz competes at the 2021 US Open.

Tennis needs another men’s marvel because of the troubled state of the Big 3. In addition, the so-called “next gen” has not emerged in a spectacular way, despite a flurry of flashbulbs.

Roger Federer, 40, is still rehabilitating his knee, Nadal is limping into the event aged 36 with a chronically bad foot and Novak Djokovic has lost many fans to his vaccination brouhaha.

Enter the fresh face of Alcaraz, who has won three of the last four tournaments he has competed in and climbed up to 6th place.

In this month’s clay court vote in Madrid, Alcaraz swept past Nadal, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev on consecutive days. No one had ever beaten Nadal and Djokovic in the same clay tournament.

“We’ve talked about the Big 3 for so long, but in recent years it’s been the Big 1,” Carillo said, referring to Djokovic. “And we’ve talked about ‘next generation’ for so long.

“[Alcaraz] said he grew up with Federer, but his temperament is much more reminiscent of Rafa, who plays every point for what it’s worth,” Carillo added. “Down Love-40 Serving, he still thinks he should win this game. He’s that guy. He plays with the joy of an eight-year-old trying to show you that he can do 100 push-ups.”

Carlo Alcaraz
Carlo Alcaraz
Dubreuil Corinne/Abaca/Sipa USA

To rest for the French grind, Alcaraz sat out the Rome event last week, which Djokovic conquered on Sunday. Victory at the Italian Open made Djokovic a very slight betting favorite over second-choice Alcaraz, who are 2-1 at BetMGM.

“Why not?” Carillo replied when asked if he felt like he could win his first major at 19. It would be a thrill.”

Alcaraz, who turned 19 on May 5, will compete in his fifth Grand Slam event. He was an unknown relative at Flushing Meadows last September as he completed his quarter-final run, upsetting No.3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas is a longtime member of the ‘Next Gen’ stars who don’t quite live up to their hype.

“Tsitsipas said it the other day and I’m sure it was meant lightly,” said Carillo. “He said when he grows up he wants to be Carlos Alcaraz. The whole dressing room is watching and admiring him.”

Alcaraz is listed at 6ft 1 and has the heart of Nadal, can be exquisite at net despite lacking traditional tennis size and arguably has the best drop shot in tennis.

“Perfect shots,” Carillo said.

“Nadal has spoken about how well [Alcaraz] and he’s humble,” added Carillo. “His uncle Toni told Rafa early on to stay hungry, stay humble. This kid embodies that.”

Alcaraz’ journey is fueled by former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero as coach. According to Carillo, Ferrero is so smitten that he has told his young family that he wants to travel with the teenager full-time over the next two years to ease this transition to stardom.

“So often there can be great, talented young players who are just surrounded by the wrong people,” said Carillo, who works for HBO’s Real Sports and writes an article on Chris Evert’s battle with cancer. “They fill his head, take his money. He has a lot of good people around him.” Carlos Alcaraz earns reputation as tennis ‘Next Nadal’


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