“Dangerous disconnection” and excessive ambition working against Carlos Alcaraz
His explosion as a teenager and better numbers than the “Big Three” when they were under 20 years old have made Carlos Alcaraz to be measured differently.
The media, the fans and his rivals do it. But above all, he does it himself. And that often subtracts more than it adds. His time in Melbourne was proof of that.
Being a teenager and already among the best tennis players of the 21st century, owner of a couple of Grand Slam titles and an reaching the top of the rankings so you, make an elimination in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open a disappointment… even though it was his best result of his brief career in the first big event of the year.
A very early and several times repeated warning, fortunately for him and his team, that his head is playing tricks on the Spaniard most of the times he has been in late rounds on the big stages of tennis.
The last 12 months already create a trend to analyze: three out of four times his mind didn’t help at all in Grand Slams. At Roland Garros the nervousness that started before the semifinal against Novak Djokovic caused him cramps; at the US Open, against Daniil Medvedev, he explained that his mind was “in the moon” at key moments with catastrophic consequences; and against Alexander Zverev his disconnection made him give away the first two sets, which led him to a painful defeat: 1-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) and 4-6.
It is those “dangerous disconnections” that Juan Carlos Ferrero, his coach, who was unable to travel to Melbourne due to a knee surgery, has already acknowledged. The former world number one in 2003 told CLAY in an interview at the beginning of 2023 that this was one of the most urgent aspects of what his student had to improve: “He must be better at the beginning of the matches, more regular, because many times it costs him a little bit to start”.
It is true that in Melbourne he met a player who played sublime tennis. Alexander Zverev has been demonstrating his great quality after an injury that made him think he would never be the same. But the disconnection of Alcaraz with his own tennis in the first two hours of the match is the sign that ended up staying and that will surely be a subject to which Ferrero will dedicate extra hours.
Alcaraz was able to recognize it, but found no explanations: “I don’t know what happened to me. I have to see it with my team. Nobody is perfect and I have to improve that. I’m not going to make excuses for my age, but I’m 20 years old and personally I think it’s something normal that happens to me”.
With outbursts of sincerity he has made public his ambitious goals, and these days at Melbourne Park, in front of the international press he has left phrases that, after a defeat out of the plans, invite to reflect. How much it suits Alcaraz to express that the only thing he thinks about is to beat Djokovic’s records? Is not his ambition disproportionate?
Rod Laver said, with that authoritative voice of the only man who won all the Grand Slams in the same year (1969), that “only a miracle” can stop Serb’s name to be put for the 11th time in the Melbourne trophy. A candy for the Spanish media present at the event, who in a meeting with the World number two did not miss the opportunity to ask him for a statement in response to the Australian’s statement.
“My name is miracle,” Alcaraz replied. It was on one hand, a joke followed by laughter, but it is still loaded with truth regarding the Spaniard’s convictions that can often take him out of the real spotlight.
From February until the end of Wimbledon, Alcaraz has a lot of work to do: he will have to revalidate 6,675 points. The responsibility of having to defend titles on all surfaces and in all categories (Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, Queens and at the All England Club) will certainly not come easy after such a hesitant start to the year on the court.
From time to time he is a young man.
From time to time we remember that he is 20 years old.