Breaking news: Alcaraz is 20 years old

PARIS – Breaking news: he had us all fooled into thinking he had been playing at the top of the tennis game for a decade. But no, Carlos Alcaraz is 20 years old. And until recently he was a “teenager”.

Those tender 20 years became evident on Friday in the Roland Garros semi-final loss to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, when a succession of cramps turned the Spaniard into a powerless tennis player.

“What happened today is mental, I have entered the match more tense than usual, I have not been able to relax, from the beginning of the match I had an extra tension that eventually takes its toll,” admitted Carlos Alcaraz after the 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 with which Djokovic dispatched him.

“It’s not easy to play with Novak. Whoever says that comes in to play without nerves against Novak, is lying,” he added in a burst of sincerity that sent to the drawer statements such as that he aspires to be one of the best of all time. There is still a very long road ahead. With unforeseen events such as cramps, for example.

Djokovic was in a bad spot in the semi-final, coming from losing the second set and not playing well at the start of the third. But then, on a return of serve in the second game, Alcaraz made a strange move, excessively abrupt, over-powered and over-rotated, and he was stiff. He could not step. Later it was revealed that he had been struggling with cramps since the first set.

“From the box they didn’t tell me to retire. I told them I was really fucked up, They told me that if I didn’t find a solution I should retire, but it would have hurt a lot more if I retired. In the fourth set I thought I had a one per cent chance, I wanted to hold on to that”.

The truth is that Alcaraz no longer had a chance, Djokovic was the master of everything. And, for the Spaniard and his coaching staff, the mission remains to see what happens to a player who since November 2022 has suffered three major injuries that prevented him from finishing the previous season and left him out of the Australian Open.

Djokovic said Alcaraz must be very satisfied with what he has done so far.

“It’s a part of the learning curve. It’s part of the experience. He’s only 20, you know. So he’s got plenty of time. He’s showed so much maturity in the last couple of years. He appeared on the scene, you know, just few years ago, winning his first title, and only a year later he wins his first Grand Slam and he becomes No. 1.

You know, I have tremendous respect for that, and, you know, he’s got a great coach, great team of people around him.”

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Clay’s managing editor has covered more than 60 Grand Slam tournaments since 1996. Author of “Sin Red”, a journey around the world following Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends