Carlos Alcaraz crossed across.
Sports talk about paying your dues, acquiring playoff experience, failing before succeeding—the famous Michael Jordan needing to get past the Pistons analogy—so frequently before a team or talent has their great breakthrough. However, true excellence isn’t often that persistent.
Alcaraz, who is only 20 years old, has already won two Grand Slam titles and, in 2022, became the youngest world No. 1 in men’s tennis ever. Only two grand slams have been won by players born in the 1990s in the history of men’s tennis.
When a stratospheric rise like this takes place, statistics and superlatives start to appear like weeds in an untended yard.
Two Alcaraz, who was born in 2003, has already won two majors. This indicates that 13 years’ worth of players—or, in tennis terms, three to four generations—have gone their entire careers without picking up a grand slam trophy.
In this year’s Wimbledon semifinal, Carlos Alcaraz easily defeated Daniil Medvedev, one of the breakout stars of the 1990s (6-3, 6-3, 6-3).
It must have been like being punched in the face by your own reflection for Djokovic.
When initially witnessing Alcaraz, it was nearly impossible to place the horse before the cart because of his electrifying movement, gentle touch, rocket forehand, and silky dropshot.
Alcaraz’s game actually has significant elements of the Big Three players that have dominated tennis for the past 20 years, much like Victor Wembanyama’s best-case scenario would resemble the difficult-to-live-up-to comparisons of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And it’s not simply hoopla from social media. Listen to Novak Djokovic, who Alcaraz overcame on Sunday to win his first Wimbledon championship (1-6, 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4), discuss these ideas.
I would agree that his game incorporates characteristics from Roger, Rafa, and myself; in my opinion, he essentially has the best of all three worlds. This has been discussed for the past year or so.
Djokovic’s appreciation for Alcaraz’s photograph is incredible.twitter.com/uIgka6O4A6
July 16, 2023 — Bastien Fachan (@BastienFachan)
We know we’ve found lightning sloshing around the bottle when the greatest player of all time compares a 20-year-old phenom to an algebra issue to solve.
With one loss coming at the French Open when the Spaniard had cramping, Alcaraz is currently 2-1 versus Djokovic. He is a riddle.
Now both for the affluent and common people. Djokovic maintains his win on Center Court.
Ties are not lost by Djokovic. Djokovic retains the match after taking the opening set. These historical certainties, however, may no longer apply to Alcaraz.
The one minor flaw in Alcaraz’s game—who was already a celebrated clay court player and a slam champion on hard courts—was grass. Alcaraz lost at Wimbledon in the second round in 2021 but came close before losing in the round of 16 of 2022. The question of how long it would take was one that few people questioned.
The season comes and goes rapidly, and the surface demands considerable navigation.
In the past 20 years, only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic have triumphed at Wimbledon. A title on Center Court doesn’t just happen to you.
Alcaraz reclaimed the surface in 2023. The Spaniard defeated Alex de Minaur to win the title at Queen’s Club prior to Wimbledon.
It was a clear progression even if, bizarrely, no player had ever won this title and then won Wimbledon.
The last boss was waiting for you after you beat a tough draw and advanced to the final round, loosing just two sets.
The young Spaniard showed the ability to hit with him, move with him, and—most importantly—add the extra gear of winners and jaw-dropping shots to take the evenly played points, shake them out of their complacency, and decisively end them—on his terms. In contrast, Djokovic was content to play behind the baseline and model his game more after a wall.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic must have felt as though his own reflection had smacked him in the face. Does this man resemble the Centre Court champion who had a winning run of ten years at the time?
Fans and athletes alike frequently have strong feelings about the all-time greats, and Alcaraz is no exception. He had ATP competitors tweeting like inexperienced juniors.
Alcaraz is an oddball.
— Nicholas Kyrgios on July 16, 2023 (@NickKyrgios)
That is 24-year-old, No. 23-ranked Dennis Shapovalov referring to a player four years younger as a legend. He’s also had a taste for himself, going 0-1 versus Alcaraz.
How many slams can he win from here is the obvious discussion topic given the bar that has been set so high? The Big Three used Pete Sampras’ total of 14 as their benchmark, but all of them ultimately exceeded it and reached 20 or more.
When John McEnroe was commentating on the match yesterday, he refused to give a specific score and, at first, it seemed like he was trying to avoid being too dismissive about what it would take to reach such heights.
One day later, after giving it some thought, he realized that perhaps what he actually wanted to avoid was placing a time limit on someone who might stay long enough to play with his opponent’s son.
Compared to him and Novak, they are younger.
July 16, 2023 — Griffin Beers (@griffin_beers2)
McEnroe stated that he only wanted to see Alcaraz remain healthy going ahead since injuries might be the only thing that could stop this fireworks extravaganza from dominating the tour for however many years he chooses to continue playing. For what it’s worth, he appears to be surrounded by the proper individuals.
Former world No. 1 and French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero started mentoring Alcaraz at the age of 16. On Sunday, he witnessed his protégé surpass his lifetime total of slams.
He wasn’t very unhappy about it, I think.