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Carlos Alcaraz regains his freedom with a thrilling win at the US Open | US Open Tennis 2022

jJust a month ago, when the tennis tours switched to the North American hard court season in early August, Carlos Alcaraz was overwhelmed by his quick success. The early stages of his rise seemed so easy: he won big titles for fun, he beat the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and the Spaniard flew up the rankings with a smile on his face. But now he was dealing with the baggage that accompanied his rise. The pressure and the expectations, the shiny new target on his back.

While Alcaraz put on a brave face and took a beating during those events, he spoke candidly as he sat with the US Open trophy by his side and reminisced about the past few months. “I lost my joy a little bit,” he said. “I felt the pressure. I couldn’t smile on the court, which I am doing in every match, in every tournament.”

The pressure he felt was reflected in his results. After suffering numerous losses earlier in the summer to young players who were even more motivated to beat him, he fell in his first match in Montreal. In Cincinnati, he was edged out by Cameron Norrie in a tight quarterfinal. He came to New York with the simple hope of regaining joy: “I came here just to enjoy myself, you know? To smile on the court, to enjoy playing tennis,” he said.

For Juan Carlos Ferrero, coach of Alcaraz, a possible solution to recover his feeling of freedom and happiness was simply to play the style of play that most evoked those feelings. They spent the days leading up to the US Open working on getting Alcaraz as close to the net as he could, jumping on short balls and fluttering onto the court.

It’s a reflection of Alcaraz’s amazing layered talents that he focused on one facet of his style and used it to race through the tournament, win his first Grand Slam title and become the first teenage male No. 1. During his 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 win over Casper Ruud in the final, he served and volleyed 25 times alone. On the important points, Alcaraz had the clarity to push forward, saving both set points in the crucial third set with nerveless volleys.

Exhausted Alcaraz celebrates the end of the final. Photographer: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

As his rise has continued, the Spaniard has drawn countless comparisons to recent greats, Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer, his idol. He is understandable on the one hand: some small details of his style are reminiscent of some of the Big Three. They are the only legends that he has known and naturally he has studied them throughout his development.

Such comparisons are also lazy. Alcaraz is his own player, he follows his own path, and the brand of tennis he plays is unique in its own right. The style he has built through the combination of his athleticism, high-octane shooting, his seemingly endless skill set and his explosiveness on the court is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, as is the case with the legends. before him.

With everything he has at his disposal, it is clear that Alcaraz has the ability to win many Grand Slam titles and establish himself as the dominant player for the next decade and beyond. But a lot can happen over the course of a career: injuries, mental stagnation, and even a new big rival. The tennis landscape can change quickly.

Any sustained success will depend on you continuing to evolve as a player, never slipping into a comfort zone. He is already such a complete player, but he still has a lot of room to improve. If he improves his serve and learns to consistently hit his points, for example, the rest of the world is in trouble.

For Alcaraz, the biggest surprise of this first title run has been the resistance he constantly resorted to. In his fourth round match against Marin Cilic, he was down a break early in the fifth. While he and Jannik Sinner traded blows for five hours and 15 minutes until 2:50 am in the quarterfinals, he faced match point at 5-4 in the fourth set on Sinner’s serve. In the semi-final against Frances Tiafoe, the American knocked him down multiple times. Each time he recovered and moved on.

During every difficult moment on the court, Alcaraz repeats three simple words to himself: the three C’s: “head, heart, balls.” Head, heart and eggs. His grandfather, Carlos Alcaraz Lerma, has repeated those words in every tournament since he was still a child dreaming of future success. He has exemplified every quality in his career so far, and he’s only just begun.

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