Rafael Nadal has described Carlos Alcaraz as a ‘special’ player with the ability to define his era after the 19-year-old rose to tennis stardom with a stunning breakout year in 2022. Alcaraz has emerged as one of the sport’s biggest names over the last 12 months, with impressive tour victories over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic preceding his maiden Grand Slam title win at the US Open back in September.
Alcaraz became the youngest ever male world No 1 shortly after claiming the honours in New York and looks set to enjoy greater levels of success over the course of his career than several of his fellow young players, including the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. Nadal was quizzed on what makes Alcaraz so good by Marca and insisted that he is a one-of-a-kind talent that simply hits harder and moves quicker than the vast majority of his peers, which could stand him in good stead to become the defining player of his generation.
“Normally what makes someone so special is being very good, nothing more,” explained Nadal. “When I say that he is special, I mean that he is very fast, that he hits very hard, that he has a great drive and a great backhand and that he has the ability to be a great tennis player.”
Nadal went on to suggest that Alcaraz’s rise to prominence may have been helped by the fortunate timing of his emergence onto the scene, with Federer having retired earlier this year and Djokovic nearing the end of his time at the top alongside Nadal himself.
“If we can analyse it this way, because Carlos is very special and he is a player who I think will mark an era,” he said. “I also say with total humility, and this must not be lost sight of, that when Zverev, [Daniil] Medvedev or Tsitsipas arrived, Federer, Djokovic and I were still at a very high level.
“We athletes also feed ourselves victories and for many years our rivals have been able to win very little and when you win, you improve. So these new generations have more options than other rivals had at the time because now, beyond Roger’s retirement, Novak and I are playing fewer and fewer tournaments.
“In summary, the new players, in addition to being very good, are capable of visualising victory in a way that the previous ones could not and that helps them a lot to improve as tennis players.
“I am going to give the example of David Ferrer, who was an incredible player but ran into us many times in very advanced rounds. He’s one of the most consistent players he’s ever had, but he never won a big one.”
It seems as though Alcaraz has the whole world at his feet, with additional Grand Slam titles almost certain to be on the way if he continues to develop at an alarming rate over the next stage of his career. He will be looking to get off to the best possible start in 2023 by winning next month’s Australian Open after he was knocked out of this year’s tournament in only round three by Matteo Berrettini via a fifth-set tiebreak.
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