The unprecedented rise of Carlos Alcaraz in men’s tennis could also be ‘sensational’ for former world No.1 Rafael Nadal, according to Alex Corretja.
18-year-old Alcaraz shot to the limelight on Sunday when he became the youngest player in history to win the Miami Open and the third-youngest to ever win a Masters 1000 title. At the tournament he scored wins over Marin Cilic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud. The triumph comes during what has been a stellar start to the season for the Spaniard who also became the youngest player in history to win an ATP 500 event in Rio. He has now recorded a total of seven wins over top 10 players.
Billed as a future world No.1 in the sport, the world No.11 is likely to take over one day from his idol Nadal as the leader in Spanish tennis. Although with Nadal currently having no intention of stepping away from the spot anytime soon, one former Grand Slam finalist believes his younger compatriot will drive him to work harder on the Tour.
Alex Corretja, who reached a ranking high of No.2 in 1999, believes the two players will motivate each other to improve their games further. Even though there is a 17-year gap between them.
“I think it is just perfect, it is sensational for Rafa because he is the biggest champion that we have ever had,” Corretja told Eurosport.
“Now he has a new kid that he knows what is going on in his mind, and Rafa will need to go to the limit to pass him and to beat him.
“This is perfect for him because it will lead Rafa to still improve his game. He will find ways to beat Alcaraz because he played against him in Indian Wells and suffered so much. He knows that he needs to play at his best to beat him.
“He is much older, but he has got much more experience. He is the best ever, especially on clay, but facing Carlos will be a big challenge for him.”
Nadal first played Alcaraz on the Tour last year at the Madrid Open where he dropped just three games in their match. However, in their latest meeting at Indian Wells it was evident how much the teenager has improved in such a short period of time. Nadal prevailed once again but was given a stern test during his 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, win. After their clash, the 21-time Grand Slam champion said his opponent was ‘already a top player’ and he treated the match as if he was ‘playing against one of the best players in the world.’
“I think it is very good for him because he is going to be motivated to practise and to improve things to see how he can hurt Alcaraz or the other opponents,” Corretja said of Nadal.
“Being Spanish and both being great guys, both being very humble; and at the same time, seeing that the attention is with Rafa, but now he is sharing it with Alcaraz, I think he is going to enjoy it so much.
“Because Rafa is not jealous of Alcaraz. He knows that Alcaraz is great, but he still has so long to go in his career, and of course, one day hopefully Alcaraz will be close to Rafa.
“But, for the moment, he is only starting. So let’s go step-by-step, but this is huge for tennis, for Spanish tennis and overall for tennis itself. It is the best news we can have.”
The next test for the Spanish duo will be on the European clay which is a surface they both relish. Especially Nadal who has won more ATP clay-court titles than any other player in history. However, he has suffered a blip in recent times after being sidelined from the Tour for a few weeks due to a rib injury. Meanwhile, Alcaraz is set to return to training later this week ahead of Monte Carlo.
Only time will tell how good Alcaraz will be in the sport but Corretja has made a bold prediction by claiming he could be a threat at the upcoming French Open. He has only played in the main draw of a major five times in his career so far with his best run being to the quarter-finals of the US Open last year.
“He has got a real shot of winning Roland Garros, for sure. He is going to be among the top three-four players to win the tournament,” he states.
“We need to see how the clay-court season goes, but definitely, right now, nobody likes to play against him, for sure, because you know that you will suffer. You see a guy that is flying on the court, he hits the ball hard, he defends well, and of course, you see that he is going to fight until the end.
“He has proved that his emotions… he is controlling them very well. Even if it’s a tie-break in the third [set], in very close moments, he knows how to deal with that. He is acting like he has lots of experience, but he is still very young. So that shows that he is very smart, very clever. He is very professional.”
Since the Australian Open, Alcaraz has won 16 out of 17 matches played with his only loss being to Nadal in Indian Wells.
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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