Does Carlos Alcaraz Deserve to be the World No. 1?

Carlos Alcaraz 2022 US Open

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain recently became World No. 1 after winning the US Open, which was also his maiden Grand Slam title. He thus became the youngest No. 1 in the history of ATP rankings – a wonderful feat by any standard.

From getting straight-setted by Rafael Nadal at the 2021 Barcelona Open, Alcaraz has come a long way in his career. So much so that a lot of people might have probably even forgotten his being schooled by Nadal in Barcelona. He has won a couple of Masters 1000 titles in 2022 (Miami and Madrid) and the US Open triumph has firmly put him in the league of champions.

However, once a player reaches the top, he is always subject to some serious scrutiny by tennis fans and critics alike. Alcaraz should be no exception either, and we will try to analyze whether the Spanish teenager deserves to World No. 1.

#1. Novak Djokovic and the vaccine:

It is the biggest factor that has to be taken into consideration here. Djokovic has denied disclosing his vaccination status pertaining to COVID and hence, has not been allowed to take part in the Australian Open and the US Open, along with a number of other tournaments, this year. As a result, a lot of people are having some reservations with regard to Alcaraz’s achievements.

It is definitely not the Spaniard’s fault and he actually beat Djokovic in an intense battle in Madrid, but Grand Slams are a different cup of tea altogether. Beating Djokovic in the best-of-five format would have definitely elevated Alcaraz to an altogether different level. However, it was not to be, and therefore, an invisible asterisk is probably going to be attached against Alcaraz’s US Open title.

#2. How good is Alcaraz’s game?

No player reaches the top without being supremely talented and hard-working, that too at the age of 19. There is no point in doubting Alcaraz’s obvious quality, but we can definitely try to break his game up and analyze it. At this moment, Alcaraz has a high-risk game and usually tries to finish points early. He can hit his groundstrokes with ferocious power off both wings and can also display exceptional touch while playing his drop shots and lobs.

However, Alcaraz still does not possess a particularly powerful serve, neither does he have a very strong return of serve. As a result, there are usually very few easy points for him and once he becomes error-prone, it becomes very difficult for him to win matches. However, one can expect that with experience, he might become more inclined to go for point construction and extend the rallies. Moreover, he still probably grow an inch taller and thereby come to possess a more powerful serve in course of time. Djokovic himself is an example in this regard as the Serb has a much improved serve now than he had a decade back.

#3. Mental fortitude and resilience:

What Alcaraz lacks in terms of potency of serve, he more than makes up with his mental strength and big-match temperament. The lad is fearless and almost never gets overawed by the size of an occasion. This is the reason why he usually wins most of the matches which go into the fifth set. He beat Marin Cilic and Jannik Sinner–the latter likely to challenge the Spaniard for tennis supremacy over the next decade or so–in back-to-back five setters at the US Open.

He also succeeded in saving a match point against Sinner and then won another close match against Frances Tiafoe in the semifinal. Hence, before questioning Alcaraz’s legitimacy as the topmost player in the world, one should probably do so with regard to Medvedev, who spent a lot of weeks as World no.1 while winning only one title in 2022 or Casper Ruud, who is the World no. 2 without having any Grand Slam or Masters 1000 titles to his credit.

Main Photo from Getty.