Nadal, Ferrero On Why Alcaraz Is One To Watch In Australia
There is no doubt that Carlos Alcaraz is making lightning progress in his fledgling career. Evidence of this lies not only in his ATP Ranking, currently No. 31, but also in the way he is coming through his matches at this year’s Australian Open. The maturity with which he is competing in his first tournament of 2022 is not that of an 18-year-old with barely a year’s experience on the ATP Tour.
His shots on court are turning more and more heads off it. His name is starting to appear among the favourites to go deep on the biggest stages on Tour. So much so, that nobody is willing to write him off from the list of hopefuls for the crown in Melbourne Park, including Rafael Nadal.
“Does he have a chance of winning here? Yes, what can I say? Why not?” Nadal said. “He’s a young player that is clearly on the up and we’ll see what happens. At the moment, everything is unpredictable and he’s a player with huge potential.”
A lot has changed since the two Spaniards clashed in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open on 5 May 2021, the day of Alcaraz’s eighteenth birthday. Although he had already celebrated his first win at an ATP Masters 1000 event, Alcaraz was still yet to break into the Top 100 and had no titles under his belt. Seven months later, it is a very different story.
“Last year he made big strides up the Rankings and in his level. I’m sure he will do so again this year. From there, we’ll see from day to day where his potential takes him,” Nadal said of Alcaraz’s future. “At the end of the day, when you have all that potential and you’re a hard worker too, it’s unlikely things will go badly for you. You would expect him to have more chances to fight for big things as each tournament goes by.”
Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, agrees with Nadal. “Of course, Rafa’s words are wonderful and we’re grateful for them. I really agree with what he said. He has potential. Now we just need to see when he fulfils it at an important tournament like this one.”
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
This January marks the start of their fourth season together. During those years, in which Alcaraz has sculpted his game under the orders of the former World No. 1, he has been able to monitor his progress. Even at this early point in his career, the Murcia-native has what it takes to square up to any opponent.
“Right now, his youth is a positive and a negative,” Ferrero explained. “Positive because of the desire and motivation, as well as being physically fit. Negative because he still lacks experience in many situations.”
Another player who knows him very well is Pablo Carreño Busta, who has also reached the third round of this Australian Open. They share a team at the Academia Equelite-Juan Carlos Ferrero in Villena (Alicante, Spain).
“Carlos has been working well at the academy for many years. With all that work, quality and potential he has, he will continue to deliver,” Carreno Busta said. “He’s getting very good results, but they will get better.”
Having shared a training court with him so many times, Carreno Busta knows Alcaraz better, perhaps, than any other player.
“He still has room for improvement. Apart from having winning shots from anywhere, there are situations on court that perhaps he isn’t managing as well as he could,” Carreno Busta said. “But through training and desire — which he has no lack of — I’m sure he will grow and get increasingly better.”
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
While everyone else is putting his first steps under the microscope, the man himself is enjoying a meteoric learning curve which, so far, is yet to level off.
“I’m playing very well,” Alcaraz said. “I know where to be at difficult moments and I feel good about how I feel on court. I’m ready to give any player a match right now.”
His performance in competition continues to feed his confidence, but where does Alcaraz himself feel he has progressed the most?
“I think I’ve improved most in my attitude, in knowing what is happening on court. I think I’ve matured a lot in reading the match, what I’m doing well and what I’m doing badly,” Alcaraz said. “Changing things that aren’t going well for me. That area is where I’ve improved a lot, which is making me mature and progress more rapidly.”
And, finally, amid all the praise showered on his pupil, Ferrero has one more thing to say: “Of course he’s thinking about winning here some time; this year, next year, or whenever. Let’s hope it’s as soon as possible. He’s working very well, he’s had a very good preseason and he’s playing very well. But to win here you have to beat very good and experienced players that are just as well-prepared as he is so, as Rafa said, anything can happen, but let’s not build it up any more.”
Nobody has had a better view of Alcaraz’s journey from a boy with potential to a man to watch in Australia.