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Ready or not? Grand Slams and intense pressure in the second chapter of Carlos Alcaraz’s career

Still a teenager, Carlos Alcaraz fancies his chances to win a Grand Slam soon – but he’s about to head into a brand-new part of his career where the pressure will begin to pile on

Carlos Alcaraz, Hamburg 2022 Carlos Alcaraz, Hamburg 2022 | © Imago / Panoramic

“I’m not afraid to say that I’m ready to win a Grand Slam. Physically I feel very well. I am mentally strong. I am a strong player and in the end that is what it takes to win a Grand Slam.” That was what Carlos Alcaraz had to say ahead of Roland-Garros this year, when he went in as the sixth seed.

He had a great run there, making the quarter-final before losing to third seed Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7).

“I have to take the lesson,” he reflected afterwards. “I mean, I have to improve to the next Grand Slam or next matches. But I would say I’m not far away to reach a semi-final or be able to win a Grand Slam. Just take the lesson, let’s say, in these kind of matches. I would say I have the level, I have the confidence to win a Grand Slam or pass through to the semi-final next time.”

Alcaraz didn’t progress quite as far the next time, though. That was, of course, on grass, when he fell in the round of 16 at Wimbledon to Jannik Sinner, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3, when he acknowledged his relative inexperience.

“I start really nervous. Playing on Centre Court is not easy for me. Jannik could handle it better than me, the nerves and the pressure, I’d say,” he admitted after the match.

I’m going to be a great player on grass – Alcaraz

He didn’t mention it, of course, but he had also been struggling in the weeks previously with an elbow injury – which had restricted his preparations for SW19.

So his best run at a Slam remains the last eight – which he already achieved in his first-ever appearance at the US Open, just last year.

And ahead of this year’s US Open, he is trying to get his season back on track for a tilt at a Slam title with a run at the Hamburg Open – where he is the top seed for the very first time at an ATP tournament. This is an entirely new stage of his career; indeed, next week marks one year since his first ATP tour level title, at the Croatia Open – and he has a significant amount of points to defend there for the very first time.

ALCARAZ’ RUN IN 2022

Australian Open : 3rd round
Rio (ATP 500) : TROPHY
Indian Wells (1000) : Semis
Miami (1000) : TROPHY
Monte-Carlo (1000) : 1st round
Barcelona (ATP 500) : TROPHY
Madrid (1000) : TROPHY
Roland-Garros : QF
Wimbledon : 4th round
Hamburg (ATP 500) : now playing

A different type of pressure is on.

Whatever happens in the weeks, months and years to come, we already know where Alcaraz’s ambitions lie. He’s been very blunt in his announcements – most recently at Wimbledon, when despite defeat he took some small but important overarching victories.

“I got a lot of experience playing on grass [at Wimbledon],” he pointed out, suggesting that he intends to have a fuller preparation on grass in 2023. “Now I’m thinking that myself could be a great player on grass. Next year hope to play some tournaments before here in Wimbledon to, I mean, adapt my game to used to play here in grass.

“But I would say I’m going to be a great player here on grass.” And Alcaraz knows what his biggest target is.

“I’m going to try to be one of the best tennis player[s] in the world for many years.”

You heard it from him first.

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