With a double in Madrid on Sunday, as in Barcelona two weeks earlier, Carlos Alcaraz, twenty years old for two days, is on the ideal launching pad towards Roland-Garros (May 28-June 11), which he should approach in the shoes of world N.1.
The young Spanish phenomenon suffered for a long time on Sunday evening, for nearly two and a half hours, against the German Jan-Lennard Struff (65th), the first lucky loser to invite himself to the final of a Masters 1000, but he ended up win 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“Today, at certain times I had fun, but at others I suffered more than savoured…, recognizes Alcaraz. But you have to go through it. And I think I had more fun than I did not suffer.”
Madrid’s ‘Caja magica’ sound system couldn’t have been more timely, when it spit out ‘Don’t stop me now’, one of Queen’s hits, as ‘Carlitos’ showed off their new trophy .
At just twenty years old, it’s a certainty, Alcaraz has no desire to slow down his infernal pace, he who became the youngest world No.1 in history in the wake of his coronation at the US Open last September, his first Grand Slam, and who finds himself very close to becoming one again before Roland-Garros.
19 out of 20 on ocher in 2023
Back on the heels of Novak Djokovic on Monday, he will only need to play a match at the Masters 1000 in Rome next week to be sure of reinstalling himself on the throne of world tennis at the end of the Italian tournament. He had not played in Rome a year ago, when Djokovic won there.
“I’m an ambitious boy, and I’m going to Rome,” confirmed Alcaraz on Sunday evening, now ten trophies to his name.
In the meantime, the protege of Juan Carlos Ferrero has already offered his fourth title, and the second in Masters 1000, of a season which he launched late in mid-February after a muscle injury deprived him of Australian Open.
In less than three months, he signed five finals in six tournaments, won, before Madrid, in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona, and collected 29 victories for only two defeats.
Above all, his record on ocher is eloquent: the Murcian has accumulated 19 victories there in twenty matches in 2023. On European clay, he is even undefeated: from Barcelona to Madrid, he has just scored eleven successes. His only loss on the surface dates back to the end of February, in the final in Rio, against Briton Cameron Norrie.
Impossible, under these conditions, not to make him a favorite for Roland-Garros.
Nevertheless Struff has shaken up Alcaraz like no one since the start of the European season on ocher, with an ultra offensive tactic: serve and volley galore behind his first overpowering ball – regularly above 215 km / h, and even 220 km / h – and maximum aggressiveness on return.
When the German hit two double faults in his first game of service and was broken from the start, we thought the match would not go on forever. It has not happened.
Put under pressure as rarely, Alcaraz was destabilized; we saw him, hands on his hips, wondering how he could deal with the audacity and success of Struff after failing to convert five break points that would have allowed him to relaunch in the second set, 3 games to 1. But his strength was not to lose control and not to give in to frustration, further proof of his extraordinary maturity.
“There was a moment when the negative got to me a bit… The only thing I changed was being positive at the start of the third set,” he explains.
Will Struff’s strategy inspire others?
In Rome, Alcaraz and Djokovic must, barring a twist, find themselves playing the same tournament for the first time in 2023.
At 33, Struff leaves the Spanish capital certain to climb to the best ranking of his career on Monday, 28th.