Former world No 1 explains ‘biggest challenge’ that ‘inspirational’ Carlos Alcaraz will face over next few years

Carlos Alcaraz with year-end No 1 trophy Credit: Alamy
Carlos Alcaraz with year-end No 1 trophy Credit: Alamy

Will Carlos Alcaraz be able to grind his way to wins when things are not going his way? That will be one of the big obstacles that the Spaniard will face after his “unbelievable year”, according to Mats Wilander.

Alcaraz has enjoyed a dream 2022 season as he won his maiden Grand Slam, the US Open at Flushing Meadows in September, and as a result he became the youngest-ever world No 1 at the age of 19 years and 129 days.

The teenager also won two ATP Masters 1000 titles – Miami Open and Madrid Open – and two ATP 500 events – the Rio Open and Barcelona Open – while he is also the player to secure the year-end No 1 ranking.

He has also claimed big scalps this year as he has beaten the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Former world No 1 and Eurosport pundit Wilander says doubts will creep into Alcaraz’s mind at some point.

“I think it will be really hard to digest 2022 for Alcaraz,” he told Eurosport. “But I also think [coach] Juan Carlos Ferrero is going to know exactly what they need to do.

“I think that there’s a validation process that has to happen for Carlos. ‘Am I really No 1 in the world?’ That was an unbelievable year. But hold on. There’s Holger Rune. There’s Djokovic. There is Daniil Medvedev.

“I mean, ‘what you’re putting me as No 1 as a 19 year old?’. So I think there’s going to be a bit of doubt there, and I think that you have to take care of that doubt by working really hard physically and mentally and really finding how he needs to play tennis when he is not feeling good.”

Wilander says the difference between good and great players is whether or not they can get a win when they are not at their best.

The Swede added: “When we see Rafa play and he’s not playing well, to me, he’s always gone back to an extremely simple way of playing tennis for him. Novak as well. And when they play well, they blow you off the court with a big forehand.

“But when they’re not, they go into that grinding mode of ‘okay guys, this is going to be physical, mental, emotional, very, very tactical. I hate losing, and that’s it’.

“For Carlos, that’s where it’s going to be difficult. Can he laugh and smile his way through the next couple of years? Win or lose, that’s going to be the biggest challenge and that’s what I’m looking forward to the most also.

“He doesn’t have to be considered the greatest player, but one thing is for sure: it is fun as hell to watch him play tennis when he’s that good and he’s laughing at the same time.

“He’s the most inspirational tennis player that we have because of what he did in 2022 and most of all because of the way he did it.

“Never compare him to Rafa, Roger [Federer] and Novak, the way he did it I’ve never seen anything like it.”

READ MORE: Carlos Alcaraz: Biography, Lifestyle, Lovelife, Net Worth, Career, Endorsements

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