Expectations exceeded for new king Alcaraz

We look at the stats thrown up by Carlos Alcaraz’s second Grand Slam title win at Wimbledon last Sunday and look at what the future might hold for him.

Carlos Alcaraz / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Romain Vinot

Already back in action at the Hopman Cup this week, on the clay courts of Nice, Carlos Alcaraz is on cloud nine. While we have no intention of knocking him off it, the time has come to take stock of his outstanding achievement and to envisage what might lie in store for the Spanish prodigy.

A signature win in figures

It is no exaggeration to say that the Spaniard’s triumph at the All England Club was a wondrous performance that will go down as one of the greatest exploits in modern tennis. Though the Juan Carlos Ferrero prodigy was already a Grand Slam winner and the world No.1 when he walked onto Centre Court for the final, the quality of his opponent and his lightning-fast adaptation to what was in theory an unfavourable surface are two factors that propel his Wimbledon win into another dimension. As the following facts and figures show, this could well be the dawn of the Age of Carlitos.

Carlos Alcaraz / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

No player outside the so-called Big Four of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray had won at Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. The world No.1 has brought an end to that golden era.



At the age of 20 years and 72 days, Alcaraz is the third-youngest Wimbledon winner in the Open Era after Boris Becker (17 years and 227 days) and Bjorn Borg (20 years and 27 days). He is also the third Spanish player in history to lift the trophy, after Manolo Santana in 1966 and Nadal in 2008 and 2010.



In defeating Djokovic last Sunday, he became only the fourth player to beat a member of the Big Four in a Grand Slam final after Juan Martin del Potro (a victor against Federer in the 2009 US Open final), Stan Wawrinka (who beat Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open and Djokovic at Roland-Garros 2015 and the 2016 US Open), and Daniil Medvedev (Djokovic’s conqueror at the 2021 US Open).

Carlos Alcaraz & Novak Djokovic / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

In winning his second Grand Slam crown, Alcaraz is only the fifth player in the Open Era to have won more than one before turning 21. The man from Murcia is in very good company, with only Mats Wilander (four titles), Borg (three), Boris Becker and Nadal (two) enjoying such success at such an early age.



Only seven players before him had won Queen’s and Wimbledon in the same year: John McEnroe (1981, 1984), Jimmy Connors (1982), Boris Becker (1985, 1988), Pete Sampras (1995, 1999), Leyton Hewitt (2002), Rafa Nadal (2008) and Andy Murray (2013, 2016).



Alcaraz has now won nine of the ten five-setters he has played, proof of his seemingly unbreakable mental strength and peerless fitness levels.



Prior to this year’s Wimbledon, Alcaraz had only played 11 matches on grass. He now has 12 wins on the surface. “I just couldn’t have imagined it before Queen’s,” he told French sports newspaper L’Equipe. “I only gave myself a 10% chance. But when I went and won the tournament in the way that I did, feeling very much at ease on the surface, I said to myself that I could win Wimbledon.”


Alcaraz brought Djokovic’s run of 27 consecutive wins in Grand Slam matches to an end: seven at Wimbledon last year, seven each at this year’s Australian Open and Roland-Garros, and six at this year’s Wimbledon.



Until last weekend’s thriller, Djokovic had racked up 78 wins and a solitary defeat (to Nadal in 2007) at the All England Club after winning the first set.



The number of days that had elapsed between Djokovic’s retirement against Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2017 and his defeat in Sunday’s final, during which time the Serbian player recorded 34 straight wins and landed four titles (2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022). The seemingly unbeatable Djokovic’s previous loss on the Centre Court came fully ten years and 45 matches ago, in the 2013 final against Murray.

Alcaraz moves out front

While the grounded Alcaraz’s stunning triumph looks like another step forward in his inevitable rise, it could also mark a turning point in the power struggle for ATP Tour supremacy. The Spaniard now has as many Grand Slam titles as all the members of the Next Gen and the Next Next Gen together (Dominic Thiem won the US Open in 2020 and was succeeded by Medvedev a year later). The likes of  Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both Grand Slam runners-up and tipped to succeed the Big Four a few years back, have already fallen behind Alcaraz and look to be slipping down the list of potential future Grand Slam winners, behind the upwardly mobile Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune.

Carlos Alcaraz & Holger Rune / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Newly installed as the leader of the future golden generation, the kid from El Palmar also has the task of knocking the legends off their pedestal. Having got the better of both Rafa and Nole in Madrid last year, he pulled off one of the biggest wins the sport has seen in recent years in an epic battle that lasted 18 minutes short of five hours. Such is his respect for the mighty duo, however, and his modesty that he is reluctant to talk of a new era. “Both Rafa and Djokovic are still on the Tour and there won’t be a change of era,” he said, in an interview with Spanish sports daily Marca. “We can have the debate in a few years’ time, when they retire and stop playing. This isn’t the time. I won for my team and I, not to start a new era.”

In total agreement with the Spanish tyro, the most successful men’s player in Grand Slam history hopes that this is indeed the start of a new rivalry. “I hope so for me and my health,” joked Djokovic in the post-match press conference. “He’s going to be on the Tour for quite some time, but I don’t know how long I’ll be around […] I hope we get to play at the US Open. Why not? I think it’s good for the sport: No.1 and 2 in the world facing each other in almost a five-hours, five-set thriller. Couldn’t be better for our sport in general.” Time now to look forward to a potential next instalment in New York.

The brightest of futures?

With victory at Wimbledon, Alcaraz has extended his lead over the Serbian in the ATP Rankings and is now 880 points clear at the top. On the downside, Djokovic has no points to defend at Flushing Meadows, having missed last year’s US Open, where the Spaniard picked up 2,000 for his tournament win.

With no player having retained the US Open title since Federer in 2008, Alcaraz will not be lacking in motivation when he heads to the Big Apple. “The aim this year was to win another Grand Slam and I’ve already done that,” he told L’Equipe on Friday. “So I’m now going to set myself the goal of winning a second this season […] It’s going to be the same thing every year from now on: win one Grand Slam every season.”

If he plays for another 15 years at the highest level and manages to steer clear of serious injury, Carlitos could quite easily pick up around 15 Grand Slam titles over the course of his career, a figure that Wilander, speaking about that very subject on Eurosport, believes is just about right: “If he stays fit and keeps playing tennis like this, he’s only going to improve. Realistically, I think he can win between ten and 15 titles.”

All in all, they are pretty big ambitions for a young player who is breaking new ground with a minimum of fuss and has clearly been learning from the best on his way to the top. “I think people have been talking about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself,” Djokovic told reporters after Sunday’s final. “I would agree with that. I think he’s got basically the best of all three worlds. He’s got this mental resilience and real maturity for someone who is 20 years old. It’s quite impressive. He’s got this Spanish bull mentality of competitiveness and fighting spirit and incredible defence that we’ve seen with Rafa over the years – the two-handed backhands, defence, being able to adapt. I think that has been my personal strength for many years. He has it, too. I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own obvious strengths and weaknesses.

Carlos is a very complete player. Amazing adapting capabilities that I think are a key for longevity and for a successful career on all surfaces.”

Though his stellar win has taken him onto a new dimension in the eyes of the world, Alcaraz will need to keep improving to stay at the top. Armed with an iron will and an equally formidable forehand, he is under no illusions about that: “I want to improve my all-round game. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have all continued to improve, which is why they’ve won the biggest tournaments in the world for so many years. They never stood still and always wanted more.”

Make no mistake, Carlitos is every bit as hungry as the game’s modern-day greats.

Carlos Alcaraz / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT