Players’ Voice with Carlos Alcaraz: “My trainer doesn’t like being compared to Rafa”

At 18, the Spaniard does not want to be compared to anyone, despite the praise of Novak Djokovic, the comments on the similarities between his game and that of Roger Federer, but especially the resemblance of his trajectory to that of Rafael Nadal. In the latest edition of Players’ Voice, the one who started the season 141st in the world to finish it in 32nd place explains that his goals remain the same: to continue learning and growing so that he can take another step forward in 2022. With the ambition to win a “big” ATP title this time.

“If at the beginning of the year someone had told me that I would have had a season like this, I would have told them he was crazy. I wouldn’t have believed him. It was an amazing year, rich in new experiences. From the discovery of the main draw at the Australian Open to the ATP NextGen Finals, I had very good times, but also bad ones. I was especially lucky to have moments to learn and grow.

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I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through this year including playing against Rafa in Madrid, Zverev in Acapulco and Medvedev at Wimbledon. They were great moments against great players, on great courts, where you might not be playing as well as you expected. But these were very good challenges to overcome throughout the year and I think I am now more experienced. In the end, it is thanks to all that that I was able to finish the year in the place where I am now (note, Alcaraz is at 32nd ATP rank). It means a lot to me to have finished 2021 by winning the ATP NextGen Finals. It has been a very long and demanding year. To finish well physically, to keep myself at a high level and to always enjoy being on the field, that means a lot to me.

The main thing I learned in 2021 was how to control myself, how to play when I’m nervous so that I can control my nerves and thus play better against the best players on the tour. I realized that I could compete with the greatest and beat them especially after the game against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open.

Alcaraz defeated Tsitsipas in five sets in the third round of the US Open, where he reached the quarter-finals.

Credit: Getty Images

The match against Hugo Gaston at the Rolex Paris Masters, with all the spectators behind him and against me, was very tough. But I know I have to endure these times to deal with them better when they have to happen again. Now I know that when all the fans are against me, it’s important not to let anything outside the pitch affect me. Thinking that no one is there and staying focused on the game is key.

In 2022, I want to continue to grow and gain experience. But now that I have reached this place in the standings, I am able to think bigger. My goal is to finish in the top 50 once again, but also to win another tournament. I would obviously be very excited if it was a Masters 1000 or a Grand Slam, but maybe winning an ATP 500 would already be a good goal.

In terms of comparison with the “big three”, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are great players, among the best in our history, and they are also great people. When Djokovic said that what I had accomplished was incredible, I was speechless. I sent him a message thanking him for his words. Compared to Federer, I can look a bit like him if you look at my dynamism on the pitch: I can play very aggressively, go up to the net very regularly and use cushioning like he does. He can do anything, anytime, and that’s something I feel I can do too.

The first time I met Nadal, it was on the Rafa Nadal Tour (editor’s note, a tennis circuit for juniors), during a trophy ceremony. I could barely exchange words with him. But then the first time I spoke to him properly I saw that he was a great guy and it was very easy to chat with him. If you didn’t know Rafa with all he has accomplished in his career, you might think he’s an ordinary person. I think that is what characterizes him the most: he is very kind, humble and happy. My trainer, Juan Carlos Ferrero (former world No. 1 and winner of Roland-Garros in 2003), who plays a fundamental role in my career, doesn’t like being compared to Rafa. He’s trying to get me to focus on myself, on Carlos Alcaraz, and not try to be like everyone else. This advice helps me a lot.

Nadal and Alcaraz after the second round of the Masters 1000 in Madrid in May 2021, their first face to face on the ATP Tour and in their career.

Credit: Getty Images

Soon I will be wearing the colors of Spain for the Davis Cup finals and that means a lot to me. Representing your country in any field or competition is a source of great pride and something incredible. When I was told I was going to be part of the team, I couldn’t believe it. It’s a childhood dream for me to be part of the Davis Cup team.

I have good memories like Ferrer’s match against Kohlschreiber in Valencia in 2018, it was crazy. I am obviously also thinking of the 2019 Davis Cup final in Madrid, which was spectacular and full of emotions. I think of “Rober” (Bautista Agut), who left the tournament halfway through because his father had passed away, and who came back to win his last match. On top of that, with Rafa winning epic singles and doubles matches, it was a spectacular Davis Cup that Spain really deserved to win. I remember screaming when Rafa won that last point in the final against Denis Shapovalov.

The Spanish players after their victory in the Davis Cup final in 2019.

Credit: Getty Images

This edition of the Davis Cup promises to be very exciting. Playing here in Madrid is going to be great, although I still don’t know if I’m going to play. But I can’t wait to see the atmosphere we’re going to play in and be able to cheer on my teammates.

We have a great team: Pablo (Carreño Busta), Roberto (Bautista Agut), Marcel (Granollers), “Feli” (López) and me. Obviously Rafa would have given us a huge advantage, but we have some very good players and even though I don’t play it’s still super exciting because I’m going to enjoy the Davis Cup atmosphere and learn from my teammates. Rafa will support us for sure. He’ll probably send us some encouraging messages and I’m sure he would love to be here. Hopefully he’ll be back on the courts very soon and be able to give 100% in Australia. “

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