More dangerous than Federer: Alcaraz puts Nadal and Djokovic on high alert
“A specter is haunting Europe”, wrote Karl Marx and Frederick Engels at the end of the 19th century: the ghost was communism, and it would end up haunting the whole world.
The “Communist Manifesto” is certainly not something that has passed through the hands of Carlos Alcaraz. But the Spaniard must already be aware, by now, that he acts as a systemic revulsive. The “Alcaraz specter” is now roaming the United States, but in a few weeks it will jump to Europe, as it has already done in South America and, in nine months’ time, in Australia.
A tour in which he generates more and more admiration and converts more and more tennis lovers to his religion. If “Alcarazism” does not yet exist, it will soon become a phenomenon.
He is not like the others
Because Alcaraz is not just another player, he is not like the others. He is more than Jannik Sinner, more than Stefanos Tstsipas, more than Alexander Zverev, more than Daniil Medvedev, more than all the others.
He’s already closed out 2022 as world number one, and now that he’s regained that position, with Miami ahead and the European tour three weeks away, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic already know: the 19-year-old prodigy is far more dangerous than Roger Federer. Just look at what he has done in the last few days at Indian Wells.
In what way is Alcaraz more dangerous than Federer? An unrepeatable tennis player, Federer said goodbye in September 2022, but in reality he had been a non-factor for a few years. The “Alcaraz Spectrum” is now touring the United States, but will jump to Europe, first to South America and, in nine months’ time, to Australia.
That Wimbledon 2019 that he should have won and surrendered to Djokovic in the middle of an eye-catching rush to play the two match points marked the early end. There would be sparks later, but Nadal and Djokovic played the last four years without the Swiss troubling them. And, in parallel, the new generation was still too immature to look at them as equals. It was Rafa and Nole, Nole and Rafa. And a couple of steps below, the rest.
Yes, Medvedev managed to change that in 2021 to snatch from Djokovic, on the 28th step, in the last breath, the feat of the Grand Slam conquest. But it was a moment, it was not a constant, just look at what happened in 2022. Two Grand Slam titles for Nadal, one for Djokovic, one for Alcaraz. And one more for Djokovic in Australia in 2023.
The great advantage of Alcaraz in the comparison with Federer – with the twilight, but also with the plethoric – is that the Spaniard hits with devastating youthful impetus at the gates of two players who will inevitably reach their decline. That Federer, on the other hand, measured himself against men with similar momentum (and tennis), or even superior in terms of youth. There is a generation gap that benefits the Spaniard, the best of the new kids on the block.
The Nole/Rafa duopoly had been running smoothly, but that’s over. Alcaraz, who plays with an eye-popping power, plasticity, talent, confidence, and panache, is on fire, and promises to turn up the heat in the weeks to come.
Alcaraz, world number 1 today
This Monday, 20 March 2023, which shows Alcaraz at the top of the rankings again, marks a milestone in another respect, Nadal’s exit from the top ten after almost 18 unbroken years in that circle of privilege. He entered on 25 April 2005, aged 19 and in the midst of a brutal rush of success, and did not leave until this week, which shows him in 13th place.
No one, ever, has been in the top ten for so long without interruption.
If Alcaraz is to beat Nadal’s record, he must remain in the top ten until 24 October 2039. It sounds unreal, it looks unreal, almost like the photo that accompanies this story, a fuchsia-saturated image seconds after Alcaraz sealed his 6-3, 6-2 win over Medvedev.
But no, it is not unreal. What is unreal is, deep down, the realisation that if anyone is capable of achieving that, it’s him.
Because Alcaraz is already capable of anything: just ask Nadal and Djokovic. Both have already seen his spectre.