Roland Garros can wait, Olympic gold is Alcaraz’s big goal this year
BUENOS AIRES – Between Paris and Paris, Carlos Alcaraz prefers the golden Paris, the Paris of Olympic gold.
“It’s a dream for me to bring Olympic gold to my country,” said the Spaniard in Buenos Aires on Monday, who has a score to settle with the French capital since his semi-final defeat at Roland Garros to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in June 2023.
A rematch is possible every year, because the tennis calendar is cyclical, it starts over every season. But the world number two is clear that for 2024 he prefers an August success in Paris, and not in June.
Olympic gold is Alcaraz’s big goal
What would he choose to win this year, Roland Garros or the Olympic Games? The question at the ATP 250 in Buenos Aires, where he is defending his title, brought a smile to the 20-year-old Spaniard’s face.
“I would say the Olympic title. For me it’s a dream to take the gold to my country, to Spain. And gold is one of the greatest things in sport in general. So I would prefer to win the Olympic gold this year. Although… I would win both, I’m not going to lie.
And when it comes to choosing a Grand Slam title, Alcaraz, already a US Open and Wimbledon champion, doesn’t favour the French clay either.
“I don’t care if it’s Roland Garros, Australia or any other. It makes me very excited to win it, at Roland Garros I was already in the semis and I hope this year to improve that result. I do not feel that I should win it, that I have that thorn in my side. But it is a dream to win it”.
Alcaraz proved to be an emphatic defender of the South American clay tour, which includes four tournaments: Córdoba, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago de Chile.
“It’s true that last year I came here because I had no matches, because I couldn’t play in Australia, I hadn’t competed for a long time. I came this year for a good reason, because I loved it. It’s a very nice tournament, the people are wonderful, it was an incredible tournament and I wanted to come back this year. The vibe here is special.”
“To those who are in Europe, especially those who have not played the South American tour, I would tell them to make the experience of playing in Buenos Aires, in Rio. You won’t be disappointed.”
Alcaraz, accompanied on this tour by his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was not in Australia, believes that the tournament in the Argentine capital has reasons to be upgraded from a 250 to a 500.
“Compared to last year there has been a beastly change for the better. Last year I didn’t see it as a 500, but this year, yes. The facilities have improved a lot. The courts are very good, the organisation in general is very, very good, very helpful and attentive to everything, everything is always available. The people here are very involved, they’re very involved in tennis, and that’s appreciated. I wouldn’t be surprised if this tournament becomes a 500.”
Despite the uninspiring defeat he suffered in January to Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Alcaraz offered an upbeat version of his current form.
“My current level is very good, I’m playing with a lot of confidence, at a good level. I’ve just come from playing good tennis in Australia, my training days on clay have been very good, I’m physically at a very high level.”
“I’ve always been very ambitious, I want to win everything, that’s what drives me to continue at the highest level”.
On a day of high humidity and after a night and morning of heavy rain, Alcaraz spoke of those subtle but important details he still needs to work on to reach his top level.
“Some small things I have improved. The off-court is very important and influences the on-court, that’s something I’m improving. Very important for the issue of injuries is nutrition, rest, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Something that maybe before, which is logical because of my age, I missed a little bit and I didn’t do it. Little by little we are improving. Those little things off the court avoid injuries for sure, it’s something I’m taking into account for this year”.
The world number two believes the Serbian Novak Djokovic and Italian Jannik Sinner are today a step above the other rivals.
“They are the rivals to beat. For me and for everyone. And Zverev, who has the head to head against me. But Djokovic and Sinner right now are at the top”.
Alcaraz is in favour of men’s tennis coming to Saudi Arabia and the desert kingdom, a strong dictatorship, becoming a stable stop on the tour.
“It’s good for tennis that there are more venues, that the countries where we go and where we play are opening up. Arabia is a country that is evolving very fast in all senses, in the world of sport there are a lot of events there. Football, now a lot of tennis. It’s good for sport in general. I don’t know how far we’ll go, but I’m sure it will be evolving.”
Although he is aware of the criticism of Rafael Nadal for signing on as an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation, Alcaraz does not share it.
“I’ve heard people say they’ve been criticising him. Well, Rafa has decided to be an ambassador, I personally don’t think it’s bad, he has signed up as a tennis ambassador. It’s a country that is developing, what better than Rafa getting in there to expand the world of tennis to places where it was never played before. We players are trying to attract more people to watch tennis and there is no better person than Rafa to do that.”