Player Features

Alcaraz & New York: A Magical Connection

Spaniard faces Arnaldi in fourth round
September 03, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz won the title in New York in 2022.
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Carlos Alcaraz won the title in New York in 2022. By Staff

The first time Carlos Alcaraz left Arthur Ashe Stadium in disbelief was on 3 September 2021. That day, the 18-year-old Spaniard upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round of the US Open, defeating the Greek in five sets after coming back in the decider. And he did so in stunning fashion.

In that encounter, Alcaraz introduced himself to the world on the big stage. His dazzling brand of tennis, replete with jaw-dropping shots, quickly captured the imaginations of the New York crowds.

However, what happened in 2021 was just the beginning of a relationship that was consolidated in 2022, when Alcaraz won the US Open, his first Grand Slam title, claiming the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings along the way. To get his hands on the trophy, Alcaraz had to advance through three five-set matches; against Marin Cilic (fourth round), Jannik Sinner (quarter-finals) and Frances Tiafoe (semi-finals), before seeing off Casper Ruud in the final.

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Moreover, all three of those clashes came in the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open, where the noise can be deafening as the local fans demand to be entertained. Alcaraz took to that atmosphere like a duck to water.

In his match with Sinner, one of the best of last season, Alcaraz produced a unique shot, hitting the ball behind his back as the Italian approached the net. The video of the point has almost 13 million views on Instagram alone. It was a sign of things to come; the 20-year-old now moves the dial like no other with his stunning shotmaking.

“The energy you get from the fans here, what you feel, is completely different from other tournaments,” explained Alcaraz after reaching the third round of the tournament after two night-session matches at this year’s event. “Because of the way I play, because of the way I am, I always like to do spectacular things. In a way, it’s where I like playing the most. I have a great time with the fans.”

In his opener at the tournament in 2023, Alcaraz turned up with a sleeveless t-shirt, showing off his muscles and creating an image that resonates perfectly with the US fans. He wore the same shirt in his second-round match against Lloyd Harris and will continue to do so as long as he remains in the tournament.

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“We’d said that I’d like to play in a sleeveless top at some tournament,” said the Spaniard. “Last year I was going to play sleeveless, but it wasn’t possible in the end. This season I was able to do it. I really like the t-shirt, I think I look good in it. When I put it on, I was thinking about Rafa [Nadal]. He won the US Open in a sleeveless shirt, right?”

Nadal, a four-time US Open champion (2010, 2013, 2017, 2019) is another player who enjoyed a strong bond with the fans in Flushing Meadows, as well as his success at the final Grand Slam of the season. Grit, passion, the energy injected into every shot... these ingredients are greatly appreciated by the American public, as well as a player’s ability to bring something new to the game.

“On court I always try to do different things, to entertain, so people can enjoy themselves watching my tennis,” explained Alcaraz, who draws huge roars from the Arthur Ashe crowds in every match with his winners, drop shots, lobs, and seemingly impossible plays. “In the United States they love a show, to enjoy themselves, to see unusual things...Obviously, I’ve had big moments here with the public and we have a good connection. I had a great time with them, and I think they also do with my tennis.”

Among those enjoying the show are some celebrities who have become fervent supporters of the Spaniard. This week, Colombian singer Sebastian Yatra, a double Grammy Latino winner, has been watching Alcaraz, who even plucked up the courage to sing the song ‘Vagabundo’ after his opening match at the tournament.

Jimmy Butler, the NBA star who plays for Miami Heat, has also been in the crowd watching Alcaraz, whom he counts as a friend. These are just two of the big names the top seed is attracting to Flushing Meadows.

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