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Alcaraz Warns The Field: 'I'm A Better Player Than A Year Ago'

Spaniard is defending champion
August 25, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz is the top seed at the US Open.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Carlos Alcaraz is the top seed at the US Open. By ATP Staff

Last year, Carlos Alcaraz enjoyed his breakthrough moment at the US Open. The Spaniard captured his maiden major title and rose to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.

Twelve months on and the defending champion returns to New York, chasing his third Slam title. The top seed fired a warning to the rest of the field ahead of his opening match against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.

“I feel that I'm more mature on court. I feel that I'm a better player than I was a year ago,” Alcaraz said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I got my first Grand Slam last year, but I feel like I'm more mature and I'm better.”

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Alcaraz’s 53-6 record this season backs up his statement, with the 20-year-old clinching a Tour-leading six titles. The World No. 1 has demonstrated his ability to deal with pressure in 2023, clawing past Novak Djokovic in five sets to win Wimbledon in July.

As defending champion, Alcaraz is ready to deal with raised expectations again.

“I try to do exactly the same thing that I did last year, trying to practise the same way that I'm going to play, and focus on that. I'm not focus on the defending champion, the points, whatever,” Alcaraz said. “I'm just focused on showing my best level, trying to improve in every practice, and let's see how it is going to be in the tournament.”

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Alcaraz is seeded to meet sixth seed Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals in what would be a rematch of their epic clash at last year’s event. The Spaniard, who is also in the same half of the draw as 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev, is likely to have NBA star Jimmy Butler in support. Alcaraz and Butler have developed a close friendship since they first met a year ago.

“I started to know him one year ago, to have a close relationship that is pretty good,” Alcaraz said. “He's a really huge fan of tennis. He trying to play. I think it's great for tennis to have Jimmy coming to tournaments and supporting us. It's great. Talking about me having him supporting me, a great athlete, NBA star, so it's for me almost crazy to have a good relationship with someone like Jimmy.”

The 20-year-old arrives in New York as the World No. 1, but is unlikely to leave the event on top spot. If Djokovic, who beat Alcaraz in an epic Cincinnati final, wins his opening match, he will gain 20 points and guarantee his return to No. 1 on Monday 11 September. The Serbian is not defending any points, having not played last year's event. The Spaniard is defending 2000 points.

Alcaraz, who did not win either of the ATP Masters 1000 events in Toronto or Cincinnati this month, is aiming to become the first man to successfully defend their US Open title since Roger Federer in 2008.

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