August 3, 2021

At Roland Garros, Carlos Alcaraz is already raising all expectations

At just 18 years old and for his first Roland-Garros, Carlos Alcaraz is already blessed with a comparison as flattering as it is burdensome: he would be the new Rafael Nadal, the worthy heir of one of the best players of all time. Beyond their Spanish nationality and their common predisposition for clay, the parallel can also be explained by their precocity.

In 2005, Nadal, then 19, won the Parisian Grand Slam in his first participation. Monday May 31, sixteen years later, Alcaraz in turn discovered the Porte d’Auteuil and won against his compatriot Bernabe Zapata Miralles, before defeating on Thursday in the second round and in three sets (6-4, 6-2, 6-4), Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, seed number 28.

These comparisons, which have become almost daily, the young player from Murcia strives to brush them aside with the back of his hand: “In fact, when Rafa won his first game here, he then won the tournament, so I can’t compare myself to him, it’s impossible”, he assured Monday, at the end of the first round.

“A season to grow”

A final victory appearing very improbable, Alcaraz is already delighted with this first experience at Roland Garros, obtained after having easily passed the three qualifying rounds. In any case, this was assured Wednesday by Juan Carlos Ferrero, his trainer: “There is still no obligation to win. We live the present moment, without haste, step by step. This year is a season for growing up. We are not in a hurry ”, ensures, in the columns of The team, the one who was world number 1 and winner of the tournament in 2003.

If he is not in a hurry, it is also because the Spaniard has so far done everything earlier than expected. After having shone on the Challenger circuit (the “second division” tournaments), where he gleaned four trophies on clay, Carlos Alcaraz hung, in February 2020, his first victory in an ATP tournament, against Albert Ramos-Vinolas – Nadal was a month older when he claimed his first Tour victory.

At the start of 2020, the Spanish hope was still around the 500e world place. Today he climbed to the 97e square. What testifies a little more to his precocity and his potential, since he is today the youngest member of the top 100.

Alcaraz does not yet dare to assert his ambitions at Roland Garros, but he did not hesitate to post in the Spanish newspaper As, from August, great confidence in his abilities. “My big dream is to one day be world number one, he explained then, with the naturalness, even the candor, which characterizes him. I wish I could win all the Grand Slams. »

“Soon one of the best in the world”

On May 5, his 18th birthday, he faced his idol for the first time in his career and, unsurprisingly, bowed heavily (1-6, 2-6). After the meeting, he regretted that an Imperial Nadal had him “Just not let play [son] best level “.

The latter, however, was full of praise after his victory. “Carlos already has an incredible level of tennis. He is a complete player, very aggressive, able to go up to the net very often, he moves really well. He will probably become one of the best players in the world soon. I think he will skip the steps very quickly ”, he said then.

This aggressive, energetic style, carried by a powerful forehand and a two-handed backhand, is not exactly that of the Mallorcan. The right-hander, who likes to pick up winning shots and go up to the net, said in February 2020 about his game that he was ” more or less like that of Roger Federer ».

Before confirming that he can be a possible heir to the “Big Three” (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic) and definitely get rid of these cumbersome references, a qualification for a round of 16 of the 2021 edition of Roland- Garros would already offer Carlos Alcaraz some solid certainties.