Alcaraz, the “vagabond” who already has New York in his pocket

Alcaraz el vagabundo
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NEW YORK – Sebastián Yatra walks smiling through the bowels of Arthur Ashe Stadium. No wonder, his friend has just won and he has just had an unexpected night off in Manhattan. Carlos Alcaraz, who made his US Open debut on Tuesday with a 6-2, 3-2, walk-off win over Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, is lucky even in that respect: by the time he had it all figured out at Flushing Meadows, Novak Djokovic hadn’t even stepped on court on Monday.

“Tattooing the whole Bible is not going to help you,
to forget about a love that’s not going to end.
I can be with the whole world, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
I can play the tramp, na-na-na-na-na-na-na”.

Brad Gilbert, who in his playing days had a way of irritating his rivals, is still astute as an interviewer: he got Alcaraz to sing and dance for a few seconds to a song by Yatra, the Colombian singer he has befriended, just like Rafael Nadal. If the 14-time Roland Garros champion acted as the singer’s “coach” at his academy in Mallorca, the current world number one was his partner on Thursday night in a series of exhibitions in the run-up to the US Open.

Gilbert did Alcaraz a favour, because the little dance was just about the best thing the crowd took away from a night that passed all too quickly. The German twisted his ankle in the first game, and although he struggled for a while longer, it was clear there was nothing he could do. In the scant hour he was on court he left a bold, fast game and a colourful T-shirt that harked back to the image of the set signal in the old days of television.

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“We tried, we tried… It wasn’t the best in the world, but we gave them something to enjoy,” Alcaraz said with a smile from ear to ear when asked about his rendition of the Yatra track.


The Arthur Ashe Stadium during the 2023 US Open / SEBASTIÁN FEST

The Spaniard from Murcia admitted that, although he likes to compete and fight, and not win because of an opponent’s physical problem, it wasn’t a bad thing to end a night early in a tournament where night matches often go into the early hours of the morning. He then had time to talk about various topics. Also Luis Rubiales and the scandal in the women’s national football team.

“I’ve been following the issue, there’s been a lot of talk, I think in Spain much more. We are here, we know what has been formed in Spain, but the fact that it has reached to the States says how big it is. My opinion is, I’m going to be honest: these are attitudes that should not be shown by a high official, that’s my only opinion I’m going to give on the matter and let’s hope that it is resolved soon, because the women’s team has made a historic achievement, and that so much credit has not been given for what has happened is a pity”.


Carlos Alcaraz playing at the 2023 US Open / SEBASTIÁN FEST

The other topic Alcaraz expanded on was his attire. The defending US Open champion surprised with a sleeveless T-shirt, in the style of those popularised by Nadal in his early years on the tour. And he left a revelation: the plan was to play the 2022 US Open sleeveless, but the model presented to him by Nike was not to his liking: “I didn’t agree very much…”.

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“I think it looks good on me, don’t you?” said Alcaraz with his trademark smile. The home crowd, who have already adopted him as their own since his title in 2022, approved of the new “look” of the Murcian, who in addition to Yatra had another fan-friend in the stands, Miami Heat player Jimmy Butler.

The basketball player is thrilled with what Alcaraz is doing. He told the “Wall Street Journal” that he feels like screaming all the time in the stands, even though he knows he shouldn’t, a fact in a stadium where the crowd doesn’t stop talking for a second. In that sense, tennis in the United States seems to have rules of its own.

“Incredible to witness in person,” confessed Butler, who “won” a point from Alcaraz on Thursday during exhibition night at Arthur Ashe. “He never gives up on any ball, he’ll dive, he’ll do something miraculous just to try to get the ball over the net and win a point.”

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