OP-ED / Carlos Alcaraz is a breath of fresh air, but Rafael Nadal deserves a little more respect
How far will Carlos Alcaraz go? To heaven, he says. And how wonderful that, at 19 years of age, he dares to says it, and dream about it. Along with the Spaniard many tennis lovers dream of having his strokes, his talent, and his authority on the court. For the quiet joy with which he plays.
However, the enthusiasm for Alcaraz should have a limit not only sport wise, but also common sense: getting carried away by the euphoria for Carlitos does not imply Rafael Nadal is finished.
Or to put it more clearly: so far this year, Nadal won the only Grand Slam that was played. It was at the end of January, and in February his success continued at Acapulco and at Indian Wells, where the former number one reached a final that lost due to an injury.
Nadal was to many, back in February, the greatest athlete of all time, a physical and mental colossus. Nadal is to many, now in May, a man from the past, someone destined to be surpassed by Alcaraz.
It is one of the great evils of modernity, the desperation to transcend social networks. And so great is that desperation, that it doesn’t matter too much if what is said is true or real. Not even if you believe what is said. What matters is to make an impact, to make noise. Countless likes, retweets, Instagram posts.
Thus, when Alcaraz defeated Nadal in the Madrid quarterfinals, many were quick to assert that “a new era” had begun.
A new era? These begin and end (and not always) depending on what happens at Grand Slam tournaments. That is where the history of tennis is decided, and where Alcaraz, undoubtedly, is destined to have a very important place.
Instead of wanting to speed up history to satisfy our small egos, why not enjoy something extraordinary like the fact that Alcaraz, a phenomenon, is contemporary to another tennis phenomenon: Rafael Nadal.
Alcaraz’s explosion in 2022 has many points of contact with that of Nadal in 2005. Power, explosiveness, smiles, self-confidence, boundless self-assurance… And both are Spanish. And Alcaraz, like Nadal, shows us that you can annihilate the competition without losing your manners and form. Spain and the Spanish may not fully be aware of the enormous fortune they have.
What we know to this day is that Alcaraz is an important part of the present, but above all, of the future of tennis.
The other thing we know is that Nadal won an unprecedented 21 Grand Slam titles. Nobody did what he did. Will Alcaraz do it? He is not lacking in tennis, prospects, or potential.
We will have to see if in 2039, in 17 years, the Alcaraz version at 39 will look at the 2022 Alcaraz version like a the 2022 Nadal version can look back on ‘05: amazed at having gone infinitely further than anyone could ever dreamt of.
Does Nadal have much time left on the tour? Probably not, he himself made it clear in Rome that he is tired of living in pain and wants to be able to lead a normal life once he retires. But this week, when he arrived in Paris, smiling ear-to-ear it brought something back to our collective memory: the subject of pain and his longing for a normal life is something he already mentioned a decade ago when he bemoaned the possibility of being a former tennis player unable to play football in retirement.
Roland Garros fast approaching with Nadal and Alcaraz both playing and potentially clashing in a semifinal. And als Iga Swiatek, the sensation on the WTA tour who, when asked about Nadal, throws out headlines to the delight of any journalist. Nadal, the owner of 13 Roland Garros titles, the man who wants the fourteenth, has “superpowers.” That’s according to Swiatek, who knows something about the matter.