Building 'A Perfect Wall' Brick By Brick: Alcaraz's Physical Evolution
A champion is gradually being sculpted, thanks to an extraordinary natural talent and a team that knows how to guide him towards success. Carlos Alcaraz is already making his mark at just 18 years old.
The #NextGenATP Spaniard is making his Roland Garros main draw debut, which was a dream when he first visited the tournament six years ago. When he was a boy, Alcaraz played in the French capital in an Under-13 tournament organised by a Roland Garros sponsor at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
“I clearly remember that I came to play in Paris. I can even remember where I was staying,” revealed the Spaniard. “It was one of my few trips outside of Spain at that age and it was very special.”
Not only did he play just a few kilometres from where his idols were doing the same, he was also invited to watch a match, which was won by Richard Gasquet, on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. In just a few years, the Frenchman has become one of his many peers on the ATP Tour.
“At that time I couldn’t have imagined that I would be here now, having won my first match,” Alcaraz admitted.
At 18, Alcaraz now knows what it is to claim a win in the main draw at Roland Garros. Having come through qualifying, he defeated countryman Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) on Monday. He required three hours and eight minutes to open his account on the French clay.
It has been six years since that unforgettable childhood experience, enough time for a radical change in his aspirations. Now he is one of the players on the courts in the Bois de Boulogne Park, under the tutelage of former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero and a team of professionals taking care of his daily progress. Juanjo Moreno works on Alcaraz’s fitness.
“We remind him that every day is like a brick that he has to add as best as possible,” Moreno said. “So that the wall he is building is perfect and none of the bricks are misplaced during his daily work."
Both Moreno and Alberto Lledó, members of the JC Ferrero Equelite Sport Academy team that guides the Spaniard’s career, have played a part in improving his fitness.
“Since Carlos arrived at the academy, after various tests and evaluations, we decided to focus on the biggest gaps we found,” Moreno said. “We’ve worked extensively to allow him to reach his potential and we’re still working on it to get more results.”
The physical change is evident not only in his appearance, which is becoming one of increasing sturdiness and strength, but also in his capacity to cope with long matches on consecutive days.
“The results are noticeable with that change in appearance, which has never been the goal, but it’s the side effect of a job well done. You can see it in the speed of his serve, the zip in his shots, the strength he hits the ball with, the way he moves on court,” Moreno said. “Obviously Juan Carlos’ work on court is proving to be spectacular and you can see that in his tennis, which is backed up by this fitness work.”
Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Alcaraz himself corroborates Moreno’s words.
“I’ve had two tough preseasons as a good tennis player and that’s helping me a lot,” the 18-year-old said. “I have complete confidence in my team and I’ve made huge progress on the physical side. I think it’s very important to be able to cope with adversity and to deal with this kind of match. I have a lot of confidence in my fitness, and I think I’m ready to play really tough and very long matches.”
When the World No. 97 arrived at the facilities in Alicante, a plan was laid out to work on his musculature, tendons and musculoskeletal system to prevent injuries. They also prepared a plan to improve his resistance, strength, speed and coordination.
“We’ve focused more on recovery work, on taking care of the fine details that make up a professional tennis player,” Moreno said. “From the moment he gets up to when he goes to sleep, we try to educate Carlos on all the recovery processes, as he came here with a very good background after working with Néstor Vicente Salar.
“What we’ve done is to make the most of that knowledge he already had to continue highlighting the details that make the difference in the processes of recovery, so that he can be ready to train more intensely the day after a fitness session or intense tennis session. It’s very important to underscore processes such as rehydration, recovery, rest, reparative sleep.”
Alcaraz’s results show that the pieces of the puzzle are coming together perfectly, that the learning process is progressing healthily and that the professional team headed by Ferrero is a perfect guiding light.
“Juan Carlos always tells both Alberto and me the things he thinks need work on and what we can do to work on them. We get to work under the gaze of Juan Carlos’ great technical eye, with which he is able to spot anything that could be improved,” Moreno said.
Alcaraz will play Nikoloz Basilashvili for a spot in the third round.