The stadium erupted as the ball cleared the baseline, and Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, now the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam Round of 16, collapsed on the court and burst out in tears. It was a superb inside-out forehand winner, set up perfectly by textbook shots, that handed Alcaraz the match. What made the point more beautiful was the fact that it came in the fifth set, played by an 18-year-old with barely any experience on tour, at match point in the tiebreaker, under immense pressure.
“He is more… similarto Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer,” said Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero way back in September 2020, when asked who does Alcaraz compares to in terms of style. “His kind of style is going for the point all the time, trying to finish the point inside of the court,” Ferrero said. A young Spaniard, doing well on clay, with a great fighting spirit–sound familiar? Comparisons with Nadal are bound to happen, but his Coach says No. Ferrero wants to call him more like Federer because of his aggressive style of play, trying to finish the point on any shot. If he will taste success like the big three have is another concern altogether. But at least he plays like the champions.
The match was a roller-coaster ride for the fans who watched it. Alcaraz won the first set convincingly and was 3-0 up in the second. It seemed like a shock defeat was looming. But Tsitsipas had other plans, as he broke twice to take the second set. And just when Tsitsipas seemed as if he would run away with the third, Alcaraz broke twice to take the match to the tiebreaker, where he held it by the scruff of the neck. However, the roller-coaster ride had not finished yet. In the fourth set, Alcaraz completely lost radar and was Bageled. The match looked done and dusted right there. But such a blockbuster contest cannot end timidly. The fifth set went to a tiebreaker, and after a long duel, Alcaraz found himself serving at 6-3. Tsitsipas managed two minibreaks, Alcaraz finished the proceedings with a forehand winner at matchpoint.
Alcaraz, unlike many other youngsters, is not at all shaky in his points. There is conviction behind each shot, and the placement somehow seems just perfect. Watching him makes you realize why his coach insists on the comparison with Federer. Alcaraz thinks quickly and is always one step ahead of his opponent. Every shot he hits, he is trying to set up a winner. That’s what differentiates him from other baseliners. Though his game does not include net-rushing or volleying as much as the conventional serve-and-volley player, he is ultra-aggressive from the baseline.
Everybody seems to love this young guy on tour. The overwhelming support he received at Arthur Ashe Stadium, that too against the No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is a testament to the fact. His post-match on-court interview was pretty genuine. “I think without this crowd, I hadn’t the possibility to win the match.”, he said when asked about the crowd support. “This victory means a lot to me, as you said, this is the best match of my career, the best win.” Certainly Carlos, certainly.
If he pulls off something big in the next couple of years, maybe, fans are ready with a nickname: “The Kid Who Can Fight.” Though he is not a kid anymore, on a tour where 40-year-olds are active, it is not unfair to call a boy two generations younger a ‘Kid’. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t care if he is breaking records by the day. Who would?
Main Photo from Getty.