Carlos Alcaraz: 'It has been an incredible year, full of new experiences' - Players’ Voice
Carlos Alcaraz has had a dream year. A season to learn and grow. He has already fulfilled two of his three objectives; rising up the ranks to world No. 32 (from starting the year as world No. 141) and winning the ATP Next Gen Finals. The last of the three is competing in Spain’s Davis Cup team, where he will make his tournament debut this week in Madrid.
The 18-year-old doesn’t want to be compared to anyone, although he positively receives Djokovic's admiration, the comments on the similarities between his game and Federer’s, and the likeness of his career trajectory to Nadal’s.
In the latest edition of Players’ Voice, Alcaraz shares how his goals remain the same: learning and growing so he can take another step forward in 2022, with the ambition of winning an important ATP title firmly at the forefront of his mind...
If at the beginning of the year anyone had told me that I would have a season like this one, I would have thought they were crazy. I wouldn't believe it. It has been an unbelievable year, full of new experiences. Starting with the Australian Open main draw right up until the Next Gen Finals, I've had very good times, bad times and lots of moments to learn and grow from.
I’m thankful for everything I have experienced, for example playing against Rafa in Madrid, Zverev in Acapulco, and Medvedev at Wimbledon. These were great moments against great players on big courts, in which maybe you do not play quite as well as you hoped, but these were very good challenges to encounter throughout the year, and I believe I am now more experienced thanks to them. Ultimately, that is why I’ve been able to finish the year in the position I’m now in. It means a lot finishing 2021 by winning the Next Gen Finals; the year has been very long and demanding, so finishing well physically at a high level and still enjoying being on the court definitely means a lot.
The main thing I’ve learned in 2021 is how to regulate myself, to know how to play when I’m nervous so I can control those nerves, and to know how to play against the best players on the Tour. I realised that I could compete with the best and defeat them after the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open.
Carlos Alcaraz defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets in the third round of the US Open, where he went on to reach his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final
Image credit: Getty Images
The match against Hugo Gaston at the Paris Masters, with all the stands against me, was very hard. But I know that I have to endure those moments so that when they happen again, I’ll know how to manage them. Now I know that when all the fans are against me, it’s important to not let anything from the outside court affect me. Thinking that no one is there and staying focussed on the match is key.
In 2022 I want to keep growing and gaining experience, but now that I have reached this place in the rankings, I’m able to think more ambitiously. My goal is to finish in the Top 50 once more, but also to win another tournament. I would obviously be very excited if that was a Masters 1000 or a Grand Slam, but maybe winning an ATP 500 would be a good objective.
In terms of comparisons to the Big Three, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are great athletes - some of the best in our history - and they are also great people. When Djokovic said that what I had achieved was incredible, I was speechless. Afterwards, I sent him a message to thank him for his kind words. From Federer, I can look a little bit like him because of how dynamic I am on the court; playing very aggressive, playing a lot at the net and playing drop shots. He can do anything at any time and that is something I feel I can do as well.
The first time I met Nadal was on the Rafa Nadal Tour (a junior tennis circuit), in a trophy ceremony and I could hardly exchange words with him. But then, the first time I properly talked to him, I saw that he was a great guy and it was very good speaking to him. If you didn’t know who Rafa is through his achievements, you would think that he is just an ordinary person. I think this is what characterises him the most; being very personable, humble and cheerful. My coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero (former world No. 1 and 2003 Roland-Garros champion), who plays a fundamental role in my career, does not like it when I am compared to Rafa. He tries to make me focus on myself, on Carlos Alcaraz, and not trying to be like anyone else. That advice helps me a lot.
Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz meet in the second round of the 2021 Madrid Open for their first head-to-head
Image credit: Getty Images
Next up, I will be representing Spain in the Davis Cup Finals which means everything to me; it is incredible. Representing your country in any field or competition is unbelievable. When I was told I was going to be in the team, I couldn’t believe it. It is a childhood dream of mine to be part of the Davis Cup team and I have great memories such as Ferrer's match against Kohlschreiber in Valencia in 2018; that was crazy. I also have some good memories of the 2019 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid which was spectacular - full of emotions, with Rober (Bautista Agut), who left the tournament midway through because his father passed away, returning before winning his final match. On top of that, with Rafa winning epic singles and doubles matches, it was a spectacular Davis Cup that Spain really deserved to win. I remember screaming when Rafa won that last point in the final against Denis Shapovalov.
Spain become champions in the inaugural Davis Cup Finals
Image credit: Getty Images
This edition of the Davis Cup is going to be very exciting. Playing here in Madrid is going to be great, even if I still don't know if I'm going to play. But I'm passionate about being surrounded with the atmosphere that we are going to have, and to be able to encourage my teammates. We have a great team: Pablo (Carreño Busta), Rober (Bautista Agut), Marcel (Granollers), Feli (López) and me. Obviously Rafa gives a huge advantage, but we have a very good team and even if I do not play, it’s still super exciting because I will be enjoying the Davis Cup atmosphere and learning from my teammates. Rafa will be supporting us for sure, he will probably be sending us messages of encouragement and I’m sure that he would love to be here. Hopefully he will return to the courts very soon and be able to give his 100% in Australia.
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Carlos was speaking last week in Madrid during training for the Davis Cup Finals. Stream the 2021 Davis Cup and the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+