Of Alcaraz and his ability to elevate the game of the opponents

During the Indian Wells tournament, at the end of the very tight first set between Carlos Alcaraz and Hubert HurkaczL’ATP Graphic & Statistics Operator Enrico Maria Riva has tweetedgiving voice (text …) to what millions of eyes were observing: “It’s early to tell, but it seems that one of the main effects of Alcaraz is to enormously raise the quality of the game of the opponents “. An alleged effect not to be confused with Dominic Thiem’s ​​ability to make opponents such as Herbert and Ramanathan (2017), Ebden and Sandgren (2018), Fabbiano and Ruusuvuori (2019) phenomena for a day, but losing ourselves, perhaps even clearly. But let’s get into the details of this “Alcaraz effect” taking a look at the very latest challengers of the one who seems to have already put the arrow against the nextgen originals, which are still content to remain in the queue for Big Tiruh, Threetaking advantage of their occasional forced stops.

In 2016, Miomir Kecmanovic (here his profile) was number 1 junior in 2016. After a 2021 in which he returned with usury interest what he had obtained in the two previous seasons, he re-emerged from off-season in a very aggressive version. At the Australian Open, Djokovic’s absence had created a hole in the scoreboard, a valley up to the second round for… Sonego? Tommy Paul? No, Misha got in there. It must be said that his successes in these first three months also have an important albeit involuntary “blue” component, in the sense that all our representatives stepped aside as he passed: Travaglia, Caruso, Sonego (twice), Cecchinato and Berrettini. Attentive, very solid, physically robust and flawless … a little boring, in conclusion. But the quarter-final that saw him engaged against Carlos was thrilling: 143 minutes to savor, enriched by breathtaking exchanges won now by one, now by the other, to a stellar level by both contenders.

We take a small leap up to Casper Ruudanalyzing as quickly as possible the his Floridian semifinal because it’s okay to see it once, but to relive it means to rage, also bearing in mind that on paper it was comparable to the second round of Gstaad 2021, when Ruud faced the n. 124 Dennis Novak. Against Francisco Cerundoloincidentally Kecmanovic’s black beast in the turn South American and therefore a source of precious information that our people should have the common sense to ask him (or steal from him, hack him, that’s all), Casper could have played brilliant tennis, always within the limits of his characteristics, as is usually possible to do in presence of a major gap in terms of rankings. Instead, perhaps thanks to the pressure for the greedy chance to grab his first Masters 1000 final, he preferred to limit himself to a kind of homework and not even well done, a bit like he did in 2019 Dusan Lajovic in the final in Umag against the qualifier Attila Balazs, when he was not even touched by the thought of playing free arm, only to have plenty of time to get his hands on the trophy by falling back on conservative positions if it hadn’t been the day. No, “dribble” from the start. The Norwegian seen against the major of the Cerundolos was really a version … ghost compared to that of the final, at least as long as it held up. Ruud fired off, aware that he could have embarrassed the opponent only by climbing on top of him. A bit like climbing on top of Opelka’s first service. So Casper entered the field thinking “oh well, let’s get this tooth out immediately”, which then he really took it off a few days later, also posting the photo of the judicious bloody molar. But, he was able to play “always” at that intensity for entire matches, Splatter Casper would become a problem even for the few who manage to win it right now. At 4-1 for him, the graphics confirmed the visual evidence: the average speed of its straight was over 146 km / h. Against Cerundolo, 127. To say.

Carlos Alcaraz - Miami Open 2022 (photo Twitter @MiamiOpen)
Carlos Alcaraz – Miami Open 2022 (photo Twitter @MiamiOpen)

And Hurkacz, quoted at the beginning? The meek Hubert he feels so comfortable in humid Miami – defending champion and semi-finalist, double winner – which could be coined a term to summarize the fruitful relationship with the Florida tournament: hubidity? His most spectacular match was the one against Carlitos, where he showed a great level. For the sake of information, we remind you that after the defeat the Pole declared that he was “To be able to play better than he did”. But we also feel entitled to hyperbolically reply, “Hubi, Hubi, if you had played like this in the final against Sinner last year, you would have left him three games”. Then it is clear that in the two tie-breaks that decided the semi Hurkacz misses a couple of straight points on the important points, but they are shots that are part of his repertoire and that can well resurface in moments of greatest tension.

By the way, it is emerging more and more evidently, almost inevitable, the ability of the Spanish teenager to keep the level high and get his hands on the points that weigh the most, even challenging what appear to be established laws of tennis as well as of life. We refer to the episode of maximum sportsmanship in which he granted the repetition of the point after the referee had detected a non-existent double bounce on Hubert’s recovery, winning that “15” again in spite of the rule that no good deed will go unpunished.

Ultimately, even if it continues to be too early for an axiomatic statement, it seems that you, the current opponent of the 2003 class, are destined to be trapped just outside the door of heaven after knocking on it hopefully; of course, against other players you will prove more solid in the decisive moments, you will boast respectable victories, but most likely you will not entertain the public as you did against this Carlitos. Why Alcaraz takes you by the hand, elevates your performance, encourages you to bring out your best, maybe even something more, bringing you one step away from your most glittering victory. Then, in a moment, darkness falls, he drops his mask and, amidst thunderous applause, tears you apart.

However, this last part is sometimes missing. It happened with Rafa Nadal in the desert and again in his debut match in Monte Carlo with Sebastian Korda. A challenge, which would have been better without the annoying wind, between nextgen now only in name and what is no longer so for having reached the age limit – as well as, like the other, for having earned the status of present-gen, in the sense of a generation that has already begun to give us welcome gifts in terms of high-intensity clashes. Not that Sebi hadn’t already delighted us with extremely enjoyable matches, like the exciting one against Aslan Karatsev in Bercy.

Meanwhile, the Spanish fall in front of the son of art gives us the opportunity to analyze, from a partial point of view, what (not) went wrong. Carlos is considered by many to be finished, in the sense of complete, which has no room for improvement if not reduced and in very few parts of his tennis. In practice, it would be much better for him to have, for example, Berrettini’s bimane reverse, than potentially it can reach the Zverev level, in that case taking the blue to unimaginable peaks; vice versa, that of the eighteen year old Spaniard cannot improve to the same extent as he is already an excellent shot. But we’re not here to pity the unfortunate Carlitos, uéi, do not mention it. We are rather interested in this supposed “Alcaraz effect” of the existence of which we begin to accumulate clues. Because, perhaps, it is precisely what everyone agrees this aspect in which Ours has a lot of margin: stop facilitating the opponent in obtaining their “new high” and instead have him play even below his standards. All agree, ça va sans direin the hope that it will not succeed, because it would mean depriving us of the opportunity of a future studded with tasty matches of exquisite workmanship.

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