A fitting tribute to Centre-Court: Sinner and Alcaraz clash gives fans a glimpse into Wimbledon’s future
On a day that showcased Centre Court’s glorious past, tennis fans were treated to a glimpse of its future as Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz battled for a spot in the quarter-finals.
On Sunday at Wimbledon, the tournament kicked off play on Centre Court with a celebration for the ages. Legends present and past, from Novak Djokovic to Chris Evert to Venus Williams to Roger Federer, were on hand to wish the fabled Centre Court a happy 100th birthday.
Fittingly, in the second match the picturesque pitch, a pair of youthful talents turned our thoughts to what the future of Wimbledon might be like.
Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz, the two youngest men remaining in the draw, battling in the youngest Wimbledon men’s singles second week match-up (in terms of combined age) since 17-year-old Boris Becker defeated 21-year-old Henri Leconte in the quarterfinals in 1985.
There was an air of electricity charging through the court as the pair battled in a pivotal third set tiebreak, the younger and more highly touted Alcaraz lifting his level as he saved two match points to survive the set and stay alive in the match.
And then again, in the fourth, after Alcaraz had saved three more match points, the crowd was on its feet as Sinner converted match point No 6 to clinch his victory and advance to his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.
It was the pair’s second head-to-head meeting at tour-level – one for Alcaraz and one for Sinner.
Sinner: “a great level of tennis from both of us”
“I just tried to stay in the present moment,” Sinner would later say. “I had chances in the third. I didn’t use them. I think what we showed today, it’s a great level of tennis, great attitude from both of us.”
Naturally, reporters wanted to know if Sinner felt that he would have a rivalry with Alcaraz in the future.
“For sure we are the two youngest at the moment,” Sinner said. “So let’s see. I don’t know in the future what’s going to happen. Yeah, I think it’s just great for tennis to have also some new names, new players.
“I don’t know the future. I hope for me and Carlos this will be the case, for sure.”
Alcaraz on a potential rivalry with Sinner: “Hope so”
While Sinner was a little more timid in his prognostications, Alcaraz made no secret of the fact that he hopes to be a rival of Sinner for many years to come.
“Hope so,” the seventh-ranked Spaniard said. “I’m going to try to be one of the best tennis player in the world for many years. Obviously Jannik is one of the best tennis player in the world as well. For sure he’s going to be in the top for many years.
“I hope to have good rivalry with him. We hope to fight for the best tournaments in the world and the best moment in the world together.”
Not quite Kyrgios v Tsitsipas – actually the complete opposite
Also noticeable was the tremendous amount of respect that the athletes hold for one another.
At one point during the third set, Sinner took a severe tumble while trying to chase down one of Alcaraz’s trademark drop shots. The Italian was slow to get up, but the Spaniard was quick to move over and check on him. Sinner turned out to be fine and the pair fist-bumped at the net before getting back to business.
“I always trying to be good person first and then good athlete,” Alcaraz later said. “We had a good relationship, as I said, with Jannik off the court. Obviously if I see my opponent fall or if he feel pain, I going to ask him if he’s okay, if everything going well. I mean, I have much respect to him.
“Obviously we are friends and good person, first of all.”
For those who watched Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas bitterly contest their third-round match on Day 6, in a wild contest that resulted in $13,000 worth of fines and accusations of bullying, today’s contest was a kinder, gentler throwback to more innocent times.
To each their own…
Sinner – A three-surface threat. Alcaraz? Soon to be
The most remarkable – and important – element of the Sinner-Alcaraz meeting on Day 7 is the fact that the pair entered Wimbledon with just one combined win on grass between them.
They are at the developmental stage on the surface and 2022 has marked an impressive uptick from both on tennis’ trickiest surface.
Sinner has become the third-youngest man to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final on three different surfaces, since 2000, surpassed only by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. His flat strokes and heavy serve make sense on clay, and now his results reflect that.
Sinner says his physicality has played a significant role.
“For sure I showed also this year until now I [have] consistency,” Sinner said. “I made many quarterfinals, many round of 16s. I think I improved also physically. If you go Grand Slam after Grand Slam and you go in the second week, you have to be good also physically.
Now I’m thinking that myself could be a great player on grass.Carlos Alcaraz
“I think every single part of my game (has improved), to be honest. We try to give our best, especially in the practice sessions. I think I’m putting a lot of effort and right mentality in it.:
Alcaraz didn’t get the win on Sunday, but the Spaniard leaves Wimbledon feeling that he can be a grass master in the years to come. It’s not at all difficult to imagine.
“I got a lot of experience playing on grass,” he says of his trip to the second week. “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.”