The No. 1 is about to step out on court in his new role as the favourite for the title. We take a look at some possible hurdles on his way
In the aftermath of Barcellona and Madrid, a 11 match winning streak on clay with 4 sets lost along his way, a halo of invincibility appeared to be floating around Carlos Alcaraz. He had just sailed back from his expedition across the Americas carrying a rich treasure on his galleon: two titles, Indian Wells and Buenos Aires, a final in Rio, lost to Norrie, but played in imperfect physical conditions, and a semifinal in Miami, where he lost to Sinner, the player who could really be his nemesis.
Even more impressive than the stats was the way he had soared through his matches with joyful exuberance, inebriating with a stinging variety of shots. Delight for viewers, hell for his opponents.
Carlos appeared poised for a season like Roger Federer in 2004. The Swiss great, one year after securing his first Major at Wimbledon, had one of best seasons: a win loss record of 74-6, 3 majors and 3 Masters 1000. No loss to top 10 players.
Then came the Alcaraz’s defeat to Fabian Marozsan, ranked No.135, in the second round in Rome. A mediatic earthquake, one of the greatest upsets in recent years. But has Carlos really returned to human dimension, which notoriously wavers between wins and losses?
Of course not. He is still the player who in 2023 has won most matches on clay: 20. Above all his win-loss percentage is staggering: 90.91%. He’s followed by Medvedev (83.3%) Rune (81.3) and Rublev (80%).
Therefore the loss to Marozsan must simply be framed within an overall analysis of Carlos Alcaraz’s rare stumbles.
Most players, however domineering, have had an Achilles heel, which they have mitigated throughout their career. Federer’s topspin backhand, Djokovic’s serve for instance were not initially as effective as they were to become.
Even the pickiest critics will find it hard to detect a flaw in Alcaraz’s technical endowment. And against a player who can execute any shot, from any inch of the court, who can alternate power and finesse, hammer and caress from the baseline with unaltered gesture, who can serve cannonballs and kicks, who can serve and volley and even serve and dropshot, who can retrieve the unretrievable, not only will any gameplan get unsettled, and sooner or later fall apart, but planning a strategy for the match can seem a pointless task. Shrewd planning envisages a plan B, should A not work. But against Alcaraz further spelling may be required: plan A, plan B, then a plan C, still a D, and on and on, striving to find an escapeway from defeat.
Who are the players who can seriously pose a threat? Which is the gameplay Alcaraz has shown to suffer so far, in his young career?
His nemesis is Sinner so far. After losing to the red-haired Italian in Umag, 31 July 2022 Alcaraz said: “Jannik, second time you beat me this year, I’m going to figure out how to beat you this year”. Which he did, in the epic 5 hour five setter in the US Open quarter final where he was just one point away from yet another defeat.
This year they are 1-1. Whereas most players are annihilated by the power and angles Alcaraz is able to generate, Sinner remains unfazed, and while hitting and counter hitting from the baseline, he succeeds in stretching the Spaniard to the end of the tether, on all surfaces.
As did Djokovic, in their only encounter, the famous and enthralling semifinal in Madrid last year. Alcaraz was at his top whereas Djokovic was nearing his best form. The score, 6-7 7-5 7-6, eloquently tells the story. Novak not only can erect an impenetrable wall, as Sinner, but can draw from an endless stock of tactical resources. He has also deftly employed dropshots in his past Roland Garros campaigns and can challenge Alcaraz in one of his favourite domains.
Zverev stunned Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last year by dominating him long through the match. He constructed his victory with a high percentage of first serves, 73%, which allowed him to snatch control of the rallies. He was able to restrain unforced errors and land hefty, spinning and deep groundstrokes off both sides which forced Alcaraz to back away and muffled his penetration.
This year Zverev is still seeking such to recover such heights, but his achievement can be taken by others as a model to imitate.
The battle Jan Lennard Struff put up in the Madrid final a few weeks ago shows that players who are able to serve proficiently and return aggressively, finishing off rallies in few strokes, not letting Alcaraz make a first move, stand their chance.
That’s how Fabian Maroszan rose to fame. Alcaraz may have been in energy saving mode that day, but the Hungarian earned his glory by constantly aiming to dictate, scything forehands while standing right on the baseline and landing dropshots, giving Carlos a taste of his own medicine.
It is also interesting to recall how Emil Ruusuvuori won the first set against Alcaraz in the round of 32 in Madrid by hitting through returns with crisp anticipation, landing them on the baseline and continuously catching Alcaraz off guard. Another tactic to be taken into account.
A fascinating coincidence is that Alcaraz’s side of the draw is crammed with players who have inflicted defeat on him in the past. In order of potential clashes he could face in the third round Lorenzo Musetti, who beat him in the 2022 Hamburg final playing with an intensity he has not so often been able to maintain over a whole match. The quarter final could present him with Felix Auger-Aliassime or Sebastien Korda. The American surprisingly beat him at his debut on clay in Montecarlo last year, but Alcaraz shortly took revenge, brushing him aside in Paris at the third round.
Aliassime beat Alcaraz on two occasions in the 2022 fall season. First in the Davis Cup group phase in Valencia, one week after the Spaniard’s triumph at the US Open, then at the Swiss Indoor in Basel.
In his press conference on Sunday, Juan Carlos Ferrero said that Alcaraz is a better player this year, perhaps hinting that his protegee is not likely to incur such setbacks anymore.
And indeed history does not generally bother the young, it’s them, who are making it.
Tennis Player Disqualified From Shanghai Qualifying Match Two Points Away From Victory
It will be a match that Australia’s Marc Polmans will never forget but for all the wrong reasons.
The World No.140 looked to be on the verge of victory against Italy’s Stefano Napolitano when leading their match 7-6(3), 6-6(6-5), in the final round of qualifying at the Shanghai Masters. However, disaster struck at the next point when Polmans temper got the better of him and subsequently cost him.
With match point, he approached the net to hit a backhand shot but it ended up in the net. Prompting the frustrated 26-year-old to hit a tennis ball that unfortunately hit the umpire. As a result of that action, he was automatically disqualified from the match which handed Napolitano the victory and a place in the main draw.
It is not the first time a tennis player has been disqualified for such an incident. During a 2017 Davis Cup tie between Canada and Great Britain, Denis Shapovalov was disqualified for firing a tennis ball that hit the umpire’s eye. Novak Djokovic was also disqualified from the 2020 US Open after hitting a ball that accidentally struck a lines judge.
“Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw
a tennis ball while on the grounds of the tournament site except in the reasonable pursuit of a point during a match (including warm-up),” the 2023 ATP rulebook outlines.
“For purposes of this rule, abuse of balls is defined as intentionally or reckless- ly hitting a ball out of the enclosure of the court, hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with disregard of the conse- quences.’
“Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine of up to $350 for each violation. In addition, if such violation occurs during a match, the player shall be penalized in accordance with the Point Penalty Schedule.”
It is a tough lesson for Polmans to learn. He was on the verge of playing in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event for the first time in his career. He is currently the 10th highest-ranked Australian player on the ATP Tour and reached the final of a Challenger event in Guangzhou, China last month.
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
Aryna Sabalenka Survives Scare, Wades Into Ball Quality Debate At China Open
Tennis Player Disqualified From Shanghai Qualifying Match Two Points Away From Victory
Australian Open To Become 15-Day Event In Bid To Minimise Late-Night Finishes
Danil Medvedev is on a collision course for a potential quarter final against Jannik Sinner in Shanghai
Jannik Sinner beats Grigor Dimitrov to set up semifinal against Carlos Alcaraz
‘Bulls**t’ – Expert Involved In Simona Halep’s Anti-Doping Case Blasts Four-Year Ban
Maria Sakkari ‘Scared’ Of Anti-Doping Testing Measures After Halep Ban
Gutsy Novak Djokovic Prevails In Grueling Battle With Medvedev To Win US Open
Iga Swiatek Dismisses Criticism Over Recent US Open Exit
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Steve Flink, Ubaldo Scanagatta Review The 2023 Wimbledon Men’s Final
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Steve Flink, Ubaldo Scanagatta Review The 2023 Wimbledon Women’s Final
(VIDEO): Novak Djokovic Faces Sinner Test, Women’s Semis Take Centre Stage
(VIDEO): Novak Djokovic Sets Rublev Quarter-Final Clash
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Plenty Of Surprises Could Occur In This Year’s Wimbledon Women’s Draw
Hot Topics2 days ago
Iga Swiatek Says Her Priority Is Form, Not Reclaiming No.1 Spot
Latest news1 day ago
Jannik Sinner sets up a quarter final against Grigor Dimitrov in Beijing
Hot Topics24 hours ago
Iga Swiatek Reacts To Row Over Use Of Performance Byes At China Open
Latest news3 days ago
Ons Jabeur beats Diana Schnaider at the Ningbo Open to claim her fifth WTA Tour title
Latest news3 days ago
Danil Medvedev beats Alex De Minaur to reach the quarter final at the China Open
Latest news2 days ago
Alexander Zverev reaches his 10th quarter final of the season in Beijing
Latest news2 days ago
Aryna Sabalenka and Anhelina Kalinina reach the second round at the China Open in Beijing
Hot Topics2 days ago
Resurgent Veronika Kudermetova Upsets Pegula To Win Pan Pacific Open