Roland Garros has its heir: Carlos Alcaraz’s journey to conquer Rafael Nadal’s “tournament”

At 21, the one from Murcia grew up watching the Spanish legend, 14 times champion in Paris. The numbers and his exploits make him the next icon of world tennis.

The four failed attempts were left behind. For his fifth participation at Roland-Garros (the first only took place during qualifying), Carlos Alcaraz lifted the Mousquetaires Cup in Paris. A step that expands his legend in today’s tennis and calls for a change of command: he takes over the reign of Rafael Nadal, his childhood idol, the best clay court player in history and who is living his last straight line as a professional.

Spain is obviously the one that is most enthusiastic about the relay. Since the Murcian exploded onto the circuit in 2022, expectations have revolved around him taking the testimony of Rafael Nadal, who had installed a monarchy on clay over the last two decades. But this same anxiety in the face of the coronation led Roland Garros to resist incredibly more than expected.

Few people thought that the first major tournament Carlos Alcaraz would win would be the US Open. Much fewer imagined that before Roland Garros, Wimbledon would fall after beating Novak Djokovic in the final.

Of course, the current world number two was confident in his success on English turf. At just 12 years old, he was asked, in the middle of a youth tournament, what his dream would be as a professional: “Win Roland Garros and Wimbledon” replied a little Alcaraz.

“This child would be proud to know that a few years later, he would realize his dream. I worked very hard to get these kinds of trophies, These kind of tournaments I dreamed of, watched on TV and said one day I would win. Achieving all these things is very nice for my family, for my people and for me, making your dreams come true is always very nice,” he commented at a press conference this Sunday about this video.

With his victory at Roland Garros, he becomes the youngest player in history to win a Grand Slam on all three surfaces present in the game. Along with this, he is also the youngest winner in Paris since Nadal in 2007. Of course, Rafa was already a three-time Roland Garros champion at that time.

A victory that comes full circle

In 2023 Carlos Alcaraz arrived in Paris as the big favorite. His title at the 2022 US Open showed that he is not afraid of the big guys. His consecrations at Indian Wells, Barcelona and Rome, that same season, he found himself in an enviable moment.

Experts and fans agree that the only player capable of surpassing him in Paris was going to be Novak Djokovic. They weren’t wrong, but it’s also fair to say that his opponent that afternoon, in the semifinals of Roland Garros, wasn’t just the best player in history.

Alcaraz was attacked by anxiety and his body took its toll, teaching him in the cruelest way that to beat the Serbian it is not enough to hit the ball well. “I felt nerve cramps and tension playing with a legend like Djokovic. I had never felt anything like this in the past. The cramps started in my hand, then my legs, and eventually spread all over my body. He takes you to the limit and squeezes you little by little,” he confessed, discouraged, after in the middle of the third set his muscles contracted in the middle of the court.

It was one of the most complex moments of the young Spaniard’s career, but it also gave him experience. A year later and after beating Sinner in the round of 16, he had problems again. “We both had cramps, but I learned from last year’s semi-final with Djokovic,” he admitted.

REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

The desire for a double at Wimbledon

With the Roland Garros trophy under his arm, Carlos Alcaraz must set his sights on the British turf. He will head to Wimbledon as the new world number two, but with the obligation of having to defend the title he won in 2023 after beating Novak Djokovic in the final. Something that had only happened in one of the eight definitions that the Serb had challenged in the past.

By winning his double championship at the All England Tennis Club, the Murcian will add another record to his explosive career. Only five players from the Open era have managed to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year, an extremely complex challenge due to the difference between the two surfaces. Novak Djokovic achieved it in 2021, Roger Federer in 2009 and Rod Laver in 1969. Rafael Nadal for his part achieved it in 2008 and 2010, once less than Bjorn Borg, who achieved the double in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

Alcaraz knows the mission is difficult, but having beaten Djokovic, the second player with most titles in England, gives him a boost that no one else knows. Among active players, he is the only one, with Murray, to have erased the serious player from the Wimbledon draw. Of course, today the Scot is far from that 2013 version and Nole himself still remains a mystery. With his recent knee surgery, few expect him to be on the British pitch in July.

Lessons from Paris

Roland Garros transformed the Spaniards. He himself admitted this during the press conference following the awards ceremony. With maturity, he commented that he draws learnings and personal growth from Philippe Chatrier, a track on which he will return for the Olympic Games in almost two months.

Lessons was one of the words he repeated the most. In a tournament where, both in the semi-final and in the final, he had to come back after being 1-2 in sets, Carlitos knows that he is winning much more than the title. “The lesson I learned is that Mental strength wins matches. If you’re mentally lazy, you can’t win a Grand Slam ‘. It was an unanswered question. “I fought like a warrior and I consider myself a warrior,” he said.

Finally, and with great emotion, he also appreciated the importance of his achievements for Spain and the place he occupies in the history of his country’s sport. “For me, it is a source of pride to be part of the history of our sport. Putting my name, a child from El Palmar, from Murcia, who achieves historical records, is something wonderful for me, for my family and for all my people. “It’s something we’re going to enjoy and I hope they don’t take it away from me soon,” he said.

Follow at El Deportivo

Source: Latercera

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