Carlos Alcaraz off the mark in Miami as Jimmy Connors explains why he is head and shoulders above his peers

·3-min read
Delight for Carlos Alcaraz Credit: Alamy
Delight for Carlos Alcaraz Credit: Alamy

Carlos Alcaraz kicked off his Miami Open title defence with an emphatic victory over Facundo Bagnis in what is just the latest display of desire and willingness to be the best.

Following his heroics in 2022 that saw him win the US Open and become the youngest world No 1 in history, Alcaraz’s 2023 campaign got off to a false start as he missed the Australian Open due to injury.

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He eventually made his return during the Latin American swing as he won the Argentina Open and finished runner-up at the Rio Open.

He then picked up steam at the Indian Wells Open last week as he won the tournament without dropping a set, hammering Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 in the final with the result helping him to return to No 1 in the ATP Rankings.

The 19-year-old needs to successfully defend his title in Miami over the next fortnight if he is to stay ahead of Novak Djokovic in the rankings, but he made a brilliant start in Florida as he brushed aside Bagnis 6-0, 6-2 in just one hour and five minutes.

Alcaraz was naturally pleased with his start to the tournament.

“It is different to be back here as a defending champion,” he said. “Obviously, it is great to play here. I would say it is no different to play a first round here than last year. I would say the only difference is that I played in the center court and last year I was not there. It’s that difference only.

“I always say the same when I come into a tournament, for me, it is a new tournament. It’s day by day, round by round, try to play my best every day, try to enjoy every match as well. That’s the only goal and only thoughts on my mind in every match.”

Former world No 1 Jimmy Connors watched Alcaraz in person for the first time in Indian Wells and he was impressed with what he saw as he explained what makes the Spaniard different from other young players.

“The one thing that really stood out for me – he’s young, 19-20 years old – he has the desire,” the eight-time Grand Slam winner said on the Advantage Connors podcast. “You can tell. The way he goes about his business, he already seems to be playing at a very mature level for a 19 or 20-year-old kid. Even though he has already won the US Open, a lot of things can still happen, he’s still gaining experience.

“But he seems to have that desire to be the best, which he is right now, he’s gone to No 1 in the world, and rightfully so. You go out and play a tournament that was in the desert and you come out winning, without losing a set and beating the players that he has beaten. He deserves it.

“He’s got the attitude and if he stays healthy and keeps that desire, keeps that attitude, wanting to improve and be better with each match, he’s going to be hard to stop. In the last couple of years, I’ve watched a lot of these young guys coming up. No one has stood out in the desire department and the willingness to give it everything every time you go out there like he has.”

READ MORE: Former world No 1 assesses Carlos Alcaraz’s chances of winning 2023 French Open

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