“I disappointed myself” – Carlos Alcaraz candid about the physical issues that led to loss to Djokovic

Alcaraz admits that nerves and tension likely played a role in his cramping issues, conceding his disappointment to have succumbed physically

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros 2023 Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros 2023 Р© AI / Reuters / Panoramic

In the face of such a painful defeat, Carlos Alcaraz was – as ever – humble, honest and self-effacing in his analysis of what went wrong in his semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic.

In truth, he was the victim of one of the most commonplace physical ailments that can affect a sportsperson – cramping.

Alcaraz disappointed with manner of Roland-Garros exit

However, in his post-match press conference Alcaraz was quick to take full responsibility for the conditioning of his own body, as well as heap praise on his opponent for the added tension and physical exertion that may have contributed to those physical issues.

“I disappointed myself, honestly, you know, and in a match like this, coming to this match with great feeling, feeling great physically, and, yeah, cramping at the end of the second set, beginning of the third set, it was really disappointing.

“But, you know, these kind of things happen, and I have to deal with that.”

The current world No 1, who will lose the top ranking should Djokovic win the title on Sunday, revealed that the cramping was not just confined to his leg, but that it was affecting his whole body.

World No 1 feeling the weight of the occasion

The Spaniard also shared that he believed the tension of the occasion, as well as the physicality of the contest, played its part in his sudden chronic cramping.

“Well, I would say the first set and the second set was really, really intense, you know, and I started to cramp, you know, in my arm.

“At the beginning of the third set I started to cramp every part of my body, not only the legs. The arms, as well, every part of the legs.

“Yeah, the tension. The tension of the match. You know, I started match really nervous. The tension of, you know, the first set, the second set, it was really intense two sets, as well.

“Really good rallies, tough rallies, you know, dropshots, sprints, rallies, you know. It’s a combination of a lot of things. But, you know, the main thing, it was the tension that I had all the two first sets.”

Roland-Garros 2023 a learning curve for Alcaraz

Still only 20 years of age, it is easy to forget how much of a novice Alcaraz is to the full rigours of the tour, particularly relative to someone with the experience of Djokovic.

But, despite all his success, Alcaraz remains grounded and humble enough to recognise that there are areas in which he still needs to learn.

“Well, you have to learn from these kind of matches, you know, these kind of experience. I would say I take lesson from that match, you know. I will try to not happen again, you know, in these matches.

“You know, I have to take lesson from that experience and, you know, it’s something that I have to deal, and of course I will have more experience in the next match.

“You know, against Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2021 in the US Open, I got cramps, but not this magnitude. I learned from that match, from that experience, and I will do the same in this match.”

Asked whether the cramping had anything to do with the level of quality facing him across the net in the form of 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, the world No 1 was typically magnanimous in defeat.

Novak Djokovic exerts the pressure in Roland-Garros semi-final

“Probably,” he smiled. “Probably. Is not easy to play against Novak, you know. Of course a legend of our sport. If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies.

“Of course playing a semi-final of a Grand Slam, you have a lot of nerves, but even more with, you know, facing Novak.”

There is little doubt that these two titanic talents will face off again before the season is out, hopefully many more times, and Alcaraz believes the next time can be different.

“That’s the truth. Yeah, next time that I’m gonna face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there.”

For now, though, the young Spaniard must lick his wounds after what will be a thoroughly chastening experience and a brutal way to exit a Grand Slam for which he’d been touted as the favourite.

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