Agassi urges Nadal to cut loose on backhand, says Alcaraz has yet to reach full maturity

The former world No 1 dissected the games of Nadal and Alcaraz during their exhibition in Las Vegas

Andre Agassi Zuma / Panoramic

When Andre Agassi talks – and he doesn’t get behind the microphone very often – it pays to listen.

Just remember the time he was a guest commentator at the US Open and revealed the secret behind his incredible record in returning the Boris Becker serve. (He spotted that Becker stuck his tongue out in the direction of his serve, before hitting the ball).

On Monday in Las Vegas, the former world No 1 enjoyed watching Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz up close as the pair battled it out in an exhibition event called The Netflix Slam, which was live-streamed worldwide and which was won, in a deciding match tiebreak, by the younger of the two Spaniards.

Agassi: “Let it fly on the backhand”

Asked what he would like to see from both Nadal and Alcaraz, Agassi went straight to the point.

“One thing I would have loved to seen with Rafa over the years is if he gave himself the green light to let his backhand fly. I truly believe we’d be talking about one of the greatest backhands that ever played the game.

But instead he can so do much with his forehand, he can do so much with controlling the point with percentage. He’s constantly making the decision: why do something if you don’t have…I think it might help him a lot of he at least releases the beats on the backhand side because when he amps it up there’s not a ball he cannot hit with it. It’s an impressive wing. Let it go for a few games. That’s what he does in the warm up.”

Alcaraz “still to figure out” his whole game

Agassi was highly impressed with Alcaraz’s shot-making ability, especially on the run.

“I really love his game on the move, when he’s in flight, the dynamics and his ability to use the geometry and the pace he can inject. I do get a little concerned for him sometimes when he’s on the static side. When his feet don’t have to move as much sometimes he doesn’t know where to direct that energy and he gets set a little too early, not quite the same conviction on his shots when he can be in control of the point.”

Agassi emphasised that Alcaraz is still young and has yet to develop his game fully, even if he’s already won two Grand Slams and been ranked No 1.

“When I look at Alcaraz’s ability to bring such an upside, he will struggle with keeping the reins on and not necessarily having to do more than he needs to, in the majority of his matches.

“All greats figure out what their game is built on and they rely on that in the biggest moments. I still question if Carlos has figured out what he’s going to rely on to create that consistent pressure for his opponent that gives him the highest percentage of locking something down. He might serve, volley he might his first ball drop, he can do all of it.”

“He’s going to find it, he’s only 20. It’s going to be beautiful when he does. I hope it’s soon and often.”

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