Carlos Alcaraz approves with a gesture, satisfied after avoiding the penultimate obstacle in Barcelona (double 6-2 against Daniel Evans) and confident that he will be able to finish off the work done throughout this week to revalidate the Godó title. To do this, this Sunday (4:00 p.m., Teledeporte and Movistar) he will have to surrender again to Stefanos Tsitsipas, with whom he already met last year on the Pedralbes sand. Then, the duel passed between tension and the Greek, stung because the kid was overtaking him on the right and had already beaten him twice, New York and Miami before, resorted to all kinds of tricks to destabilize him. It didn’t work. Today, the Spanish tennis player occupies the second place in the world and aspires to everything, while he is resisted by the major places –at 24 years old he does not have any great ones– and tries to figure out how to dismantle the vigorous rise of Alcaraz.
First scorched by the old guard and now relegated to a secondary role by the 19-year-old boy from El Palmar, the Greek has no choice but to accept the evidence: currently, it is hard to imagine who can stop the Spaniard. “I need to make some adjustments. What options are there? Be better than him. He faced the best player in the world right now. These last two years he has shown that he is capable of giving his best level, so it is a challenge, ”said Tsitsipas after beating Lorenzo Musetti (6-4, 5-7 and 6-3); “I have to concentrate as much as possible and give my best. That’s how I did it against Nadal [al que superó en Madrid, hace cuatro años] and so I did against Djokovic [al que llegó a dominar por dos sets en la final de Roland Garros de 2021]. I have to take a step forward, there is no other option.”
Although they have different registers, he and Alcaraz share several points in common. For starters, his ability to hit the ball with greater than normal force and to open angles, continuing his outstanding physical ability and his proven versatility. Both find their natural habitat on concrete, but both enjoy the game on clay and can potentially become two prolific players on grass. Tsitsipas collects trophies on all three surfaces –four on hard, four on clay and one on grass– and Alcaraz continues to emerge as a fantastic competitor on a terrain that has been losing specialists, while most of the season –three quarters of the calendar, if the percentage is not higher – the action takes place on fast tracks.
“Many people think, including myself, that he plays much better on this type of surface; what happens is that now, removing the number one on that surface [Nadal], there are no tennis players who really dominate it. For this reason, we think that Carlitos can take advantage and perhaps win more tournaments than we imagined at first”, Antonio Martínez Cascales, mentor of Juan Carlos Ferrero and member of the Murcian team, told this newspaper.
“He sees the opportunity”
Indeed, five of the eight awards that Alcaraz has won so far have been on sand, where this year he has signed a victory so far (Buenos Aires) and two finals (Rio de Janeiro, where he competed due to a muscle injury, and Barcelona). . In total, 12 wins and a single loss, against Cameron Norrie.
“All tournaments are important to me, but the one I have between my eyebrows is Roland Garros,” he said as he passed through Miami, aware that, Nadal aside, a kind of emptiness has been generated and some of those who They had applied as heirs -Dominic Thiem’s case, especially, devoured by injuries and out of the top 100-, have been fading along the way. Others, like Daniil Medvedev, directly get rashes. “I don’t like this tour even when I win. I don’t like. Every pot is a bad pot, and even when it’s a good pot, you expect a bad pot”, argues the Russian, number four in the world.
While the allergy to the earth is spreading among the new generations and the profile of the earthling, Alcaraz guesses a vein. Perhaps Jannik Sinner, another SUV, will argue with him, but if anyone has taken the step to pick up the baton, it is him. “Carlos is never going to be as good on clay as Nadal, but if he continues to improve he’s going to have opportunities from him. That’s how he sees it. If you compare the specialists that exist today with those of the 90s [los Courier, Bruguera, Muster, Ríos o Moyà] or early 2000s [Kuerten, el propio Ferrero o Gaudio], now has nothing to do. Carlitos is in good shape and he likes it”, continued Cascales.
While the rest of the youngsters hesitate and prefer to debate four or five shots, reluctant to the lasting persistence that clay demands, Alcaraz is clear: he wants to deliver the big blow, and he wants it now. Not next year or the next, but now. Protagonist last season, when he conquered the Godó and the Caja Mágica, he and his team hope to storm Roland Garros. With Nadal absent – without a return date – and Djokovic touched his elbow, the boy goes all out and does not hide his ambition. And beware: his conviction precedes the latest events.
DJOKOVIC, LOW IN MADRID BY THE ELBOW
Novak Djokovic, number one in the world, will not be able to participate in the Mutua Madrid Open, the fourth Masters 1000 of the year and which will be held at the Caja Mágica from April 26 to May 7, due to discomfort in the elbow that he drags on the last dates.
The 35-year-old Serb fell on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Banja Luka (Bosnia-Herzegovina) tournament and previously lost in his second game of the season on clay, in Monte Carlo. There, Nole could not with Lorenzo Musetti and showed that the discomfort he has in the joint had conditioned his game.
“I felt slow, without rhythm. But the preparation is focused on Roland Garros. Last year I also went slowly and ended up playing well at the end of the tour”, recalled the man from Belgrade, who right now has an income of 565 points in the ranking on Alcaraz, on the prowl.
The Madrid appointment will also not be able to count on Rafael Nadal, injured in the iliopsoas since January 18 and who announced his dismissal on Thursday.
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