By Kalen Lumpkins
Maxwell Media Watch
At this year’s French Open, third-seeded Alexander Zverev won a four-set thriller against sixth-seeded Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7) to advance to the semi-final for the second year in a row. In the post-match interview, Zverev was asked what he said to Alcaraz when they greeted each other at the net after the match concluded.
“I told him at the net, ‘You’re going to win this tournament a lot of times, not just once,’” said Zverev. “I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all.”
Fast-forward to this year’s U.S Open, and Carlos Alcaraz is beginning to do just that.
At the start of the U.S Open, tennis fans from around the world would gather into their designated courts to watch their favorite players do what they do best. On the women’s side, most were there to see Serena Williams’ last rodeo play out. On the men’s side, there was no Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer for the fans to marvel at, but there was one legend that always is the fan favorite every time he steps on the court.
The King of Clay opened as the overwhelming favorite to win his third Grand Slam of the year and 23rd Grand Slam overall. Nadal had not lost a Grand Slam match all year coming into the U.S Open (Nadal withdrew from the Wimbledon semifinals due to injury), and he was on a mission to make 2022 his year.
As the 2nd seed Nadal cruised to the quarterfinals, the 3rd seeded Carlos Alcaraz followed.
Alcaraz beat the people that he should have in the first three rounds (Sebastien Baez, Federico Coria, Jenson Brooksby) decisively in straight sets. The combination of his killer forehands and spacing were too much for his opponents to handle and were stunning to watch. Still, all eyes were on Rafael Nadal’s journey through the tournament.
Then came the Round of 16, where Alcaraz faced 16th seeded Marin Cilic. And to put it lightly, Carlos Alcaraz put on a show for Arthur Ashe Stadium. Cilic and Alcaraz went back and forth hitting each other with long rallies and killer serves. Alcaraz’s game is comparable to the likes of Roger Federer: his serves, backhands, forehands, positioning among other techniques. There’s one aspect of Alcaraz’s game, however, that makes him in a league of his own and such a joy to watch.
During their match, Marin Cilic learned how hard it is to not only get the ball away from Alcaraz, but also how to keep it away from him. Multiple times during the match, Cilic would make an amazing forehand winner only for it to not be a winner at all, as Alcaraz would sprint to the back of the court and hit a forehand winner of his own. Cilic would find out that Alcaraz was simply too much to handle, as Carlos Alcaraz would beat Marin Cilic in a five-set thriller to advance to the quarterfinals. The breakthrough that Alcaraz needed, however, happened before he would even step on the court that day.
Earlier at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the tennis world was shaken up as Rafael Nadal was defeated by the 22nd seeded American Frances Tiafoe, which is seen as the upset of the year. The day before, the top seed Daniil Medvedev was handled by the controversial Nick Kyrgios.
With the top two seeds out of the way, all eyes were now on the highest seed remaining: Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard would decisively prove, however, that he could handle the bright lights.
With the plays and overwhelming efforts that were present in his Round of 16 match (like this sensational behind the back shot), he would come back from a 2-1 set hole to defeat John Sinner 6-3, 6-7 (9), 6-7 (7), 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the U.S Open Semifinals. His opponent in the semifinals would end up being one of the most anticipated matches on the tournament.
Alcaraz’s opponent: Frances Tiafoe, the man who ended Rafael Nadal’s U.S Open run.
Tiafoe was making history himself, becoming the first African American since Arthur Ashe to make the U.S Open semifinals, and he had no plans to make his match with Alcaraz his last of the tournament. Alcaraz, however, had other ideas.
Frances Tiafoe experienced what Alcaraz’s prior opponents did: his relentless drive and effort. Alcaraz pulled rabbits out of his hat all match, scoring points that seemed impossible, bringing the Arthur Ashe crowd to its feet to the point where they could barely sit down. Alcaraz would beat Tiafoe 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3 to make the U.S Open final.
Before the tournament, people already had their favorites coming into the tournament. Going into the final, everyone had become a Carlos Alcaraz fan.
Alcaraz would defeat 5th seeded Casper Ruud in the U.S Open final 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 to win his first Grand Slam title. The ovation Alcaraz received after the match point was astounding. The crowd there were amazed by his near perfect U.S Open Tournament, the plays he made and most importantly: the effort he put in.
The victory makes Alcaraz the youngest No.1 in ATP history. At 19, he is like Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer, who won their first major at 19, 20, and 21, respectively. Alcaraz is nowhere close to finished, based on his interview after his U.S Open win.
“Right now, I’m enjoying the moment. I’m enjoying having the trophy in my hands,” said Alcaraz. “Of course, I’m hungry for more. I want to be at the top for many, many weeks. I hope many years.”
There have been comparisons with Alcaraz to the big three (Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic) with how his career has started, but there is one thing that stands out compared to everyone else.
Carlos Alcaraz has the potential to be the greatest tennis player to ever hold a racquet. It is too early to tell, admittedly, because he is only 19. However, if there is one thing that should be taken from this article, its that Carlos Alcaraz will be a name that will be known for years to come.
Believe the hype.