Carlos Alcaraz: ‘I’m lucky to end the year as No. 1’

Carlos Alcaraz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

After Rafa Nadal lost couple days ago in Paris. So, in a couple weeks, it appears that Carlos Alcaraz will end the year at No. 1. He already has reached in the quarters in Paris, and win or lose, when he goes to the ATP Finals, he might be thinking that he can win it for the first time with the top eight

Unfortunately, on Friday, Alcatraz retired down 3-6 6-6 in the tiebreak against the very good player, Holger Rune. He said, “Having had treatment on an abdominal muscle.” That is tough and hopefully he will play at the ATP Finals.

He is happy, though, usually off the court. On the court, he pumps himself up many times.
 
“Well, I’m lucky to end the year as No. 1. That’s all I can say,” he said. “It has been a great year for me. But I’m gonna end the year like the previous ones. When I finish the last tournaments, I’m going to have holidays, and then really focus to have a good preseason, to focus on the start next season as great as I can, starting in Australia with all the focus on Australian Open. It’s gonna be a normal end of year for me.”

Not quite normal. When he started this year, he was ranked No. 31, which was very good, but the 19-year-old still has his whole career in front of him to work on his powerful strokes and, also, how to adjust and re-adjust. Also, the superfast player has to grind it, here and there, and then when he has a real chance, then he could go for it. Even if he misses his shots, he could just go to the next point and keep trying to remain focused. He won’t dominate every week, but a heck of a lot of them.

This year Alcaraz won Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid and the US Open. He has beaten many in the top 10, like Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz. When he won it at Flushing Meadows, he beat three players in five sets, but he was not tired at all. He just kept churning. That’s when he ascended to No. 1. Talk about being so thrilled.

“Of course it’s a great feeling, to let’s say in a little part to feel the best player in the world,” Alcaraz said with a smile. “For me, it’s just a number. It’s just a ranking. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that you’re gonna win every match, every tournament. Every players can beat you. I see like that, right now. I just feel I can lose every match, and that’s the most important thing. You have to play your best match in every match or at least you have to try to play the best level in every match. That’s what I see in that moment right now.”

He certainly does. His coach Juan Carlos Ferrero has worked with Alcaraz for a while. Fererro won a Grand Slam at ’03 Roland Garros. When Ferrero got on court,at the Slams, he was super nervous, and then he would back off. Eventually, though, he moved forward, and he finally figured it out. When the former No. 1 Ferrero retired, he captured only one Grand Slam. He didn’t step up during the ‘03 US Open final, when Andy Roddick put him down in four tough sets.

If Alcaraz continues to improve at the net and with his returns, then for sure he has a real chance to win many Slams. At the ATP Finals, if he continues to play fantastic, then he could build a way into tennis immortality.

WTA Finals
At the WTA Finals, there have been some terrific matches. But, over the past four days, there have been very few fans coming into to watch the players in Fort Worth, Texas. It is the first year, so it will take a while to get used to it, but over the many years, from Monday through Thursday, early in the day, there are not enough fans and that looks horrible on TV. It is November, when fans can be on vacation.

I went to various WTA Finals over the years in Los Angeles, Istanbul, Turkey and Singapore.

In downtown Los Angeles I would walk over the Staples Center, and there were so many excellent matches. But, during the days, Monday through Thursday, only maybe 1,000-2,000 came in. Now on Friday at night, then more people would come and it would be much bigger in Saturday and Sunday. Here and there, it would be packed.
 
The same thing goes with Turkey and Singapore. There are some really nice people, some very good food, plus in the cities, but again, early on, during the day, there were not enough people walking inside to watch the tennis. The Saturday-Sunday, yes, more people came, but not enough.

How about right now? The World Series is in play with Houston ahead 3-2 of Philadelphia 3 games to 2. Yesterday, they played on Thursday night in Philadelphia and the fans were totally packed. Sold out, 46,000 watching.

The same thing will happen in Houston on Saturday at 5 p.m. So, when they do, how many fans in the WTA Finals will attend on Saturday … maybe 5,000? More? Less? We will find out shortly.

Outside of that, Iga Swiatek is on fire. She won two matches, crushing Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2. As Garcia said, she could not handle her this time. The Frenchwoman has had an excellent year, as she is much more aggressive than she used to be. However, Swiatek is so focused, and she can crack her forehand and her backhand. The No. 1 now has an excellent first serve, and she is so fast. Swiatek has made it into the semis, so can anyone upset her? Perhaps, but you have to dig in.

Maria Sakkari won two matches, so she will make it into the semis, too. Earlier, she knocked down American Jessica Pegula. Sakkari is so steady. Pegula looked mentally out of it this week. She lost another match, so she won’t advance.

Neither will Coco Gauff, who lost twice, losing versus Daria Kasatkina on Thursday night, 7-6(6), 6-3. The teenager No. 4 Gauff had a solid year, and she has definitely improved. But to win a huge tournament in 2023, she has to be more stable, on the court. They all do.

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