© Corinne Dubreuil for ATP

Carlos Alcaraz flashes his trademark smile after winning the US Open.

How Carlos Alcaraz Rediscovered The Joy Of Tennis

Spaniard finds that fun tennis is winning tennis

The teenage years can be tough. Just ask any 19-year-old.

But when you’re also carrying the expectation of being the new face of tennis, life can feel overwhelming.

Carlos Alcaraz arrived for the North American hard-court swing as World No. 4 and with a shot at becoming the 28th player to reach No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. But an opening round-loss in Montreal to Tommy Paul – when he candidly said the pressure got to him – and a quarter-final loss to Cameron Norrie in Cincinnati, led to worry and self-doubt.

Heading into the year’s final major, coach Juan Carlos Ferrero suspected that Alcaraz had “lost a little bit of happiness on the court,” and that he was worrying about the big picture instead of the next match in front of him. Arriving in New York for the US Open, Ferrero gave his charge license to loosen up, get to net and go on the attack.

“I lost the joy a little bit. I felt the pressure,” Alcaraz said. “I couldn't smile on court, which I'm doing in every match, every tournament.

“I came here just to enjoy, you know? To smile on court, to enjoy playing tennis. I love playing tennis, of course. I would say if I smile, if I have fun out there, I saw my best level, my best tennis.”

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After simultaneously winning the US Open and becoming the youngest No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Alcaraz will leave New York after Monday’s media tour of Manhattan with his usual, wide grin. Life is good and perhaps about to get even better as he looks ahead to additional, big goals.

He is set to make his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin from 13-20 November, where he hopes to be crowned as the youngest ever year-end World No. 1.

But he may take a little time first to reflect on his history-making fortnight in New York.

“I overcame myself a little bit. I played a great matches, high intensity, during the two weeks that I've never done before,” he said. “I just can say that I'm really happy to move on to be No. 1 of the world, still growing. I'm so, so happy.

“I never thought that I was going to achieve something like that at 19 years old. Everything has come so fast. For me it's unbelievable. It's something I dream since I was a kid, since I start playing tennis.”

“But, of course, I'm hungry for more. I want to be in the top for many, many weeks. Hope many years. I'm going to work hard again after this week, this amazing two weeks. I'm going to fight for have more of this.”

Alcaraz was ranked just 55 when he made his main-draw debut at the US Open last year. He stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals, but a second-set retirement against Felix Auger-Aliassime left the Spaniard thinking he was not yet battle-tested to win a Slam.

This year, he won three consecutive five-set matches just to reach the final.

His quest to win majors went from dream to goal after he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in March in Miami, where coincidentally, he also defeated Ruud in the final.

“Since I won Miami, I thought I was able to have a Grand Slam in my hands. Before Miami, I was thinking that I have to still grow up. I thought that I'm able to have good results in a Grand Slam, but not be a champion.”

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