Carlos Alcaraz is so good, so young and wins so often that his success seems predetermined.
Of course, a player this fast, with workmanlike soft hands and a physique that fits right into the Goldilocks zone of modern tennis greats—not too tall, not too short—is the youngest in 2015. It will be number 1 in the world. 50 years of ATP ranking history. He has good genes too. His father was a nationally ranked professional player in Spain when he was a teenager.
So this was preordained for Alcaraz, the 20-year-old champion coming to Paris this week as a favorite to win the French Open?
As is often the case in a sport, especially tennis, where early experience and training are essential, it will produce the sport’s obvious heirs to the troika that has dominated men’s tennis: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. had an element of luck. This game has lasted for the better part of the last 20 years.
That fortune ended up in the form of a logo for a local candy company that has graced the shirts Alcaraz has worn in matches since he was 10 years old. It was all thanks to a chance encounter with Alfonso Lopez her Rueda president of the Spanish dessert and candy company Postres Her Reina, known for its puddings and yogurts. López Rueda’s interest in Alcaraz and the support that allowed him to travel around Europe and start competing against older boys in unfamiliar surroundings meant that from the beginning of his short career Alcaraz almost always had a kind of It may explain why it has exhibited a joyful tranquility. Even if the stage gets bigger and the spotlight gets hotter.
“Some people are just good at it, others have to learn,” said Paul Annacone, who has coached greats like Federer and Pete Sampras. “He seems to really enjoy the environment. Wins, loses, whatever, he seems to accept it.”
The greatest luck an aspiring tennis player can have seems to come from parents who played tennis at the highest level. The professional ranks, especially the men’s side, treat Nepobaby badly. Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Sebastian Korda, Taylor Fritz and Ben Shelton are all descendants of former pros. They all picked up a racket at an early age and had almost unlimited access to who knew best how to wield it.
For others, kismet is key.
The skills required for professional tennis are highly specialized, and honing them requires a long and expensive process that begins at an early age. But player development systems in most countries are broken, haphazard at best, and school-based programs are mostly limited. Either families make a conscious decision to let young children play tennis, or children at least stop playing tennis seriously.
So it should come as no surprise that sliding door moments seem to be involved in many of the creation stories of professional tennis.
Francis Tiafoe probably wouldn’t be a Grand Slam semifinalist if his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, became an office park maintenance man instead of a local tennis club.
Novak Djokovic was lucky enough to meet Jelena Gencic, one of Serbia’s top coaches, at the age of six. She had a tennis clinic on a court near her parents’ restaurant in Kopaonik, in the Serbian mountains near Montenegro.
In 1971, Arthur Ashe was traveling in Cameroon when he spotted an 11-year-old boy with a burning talent. He called his friend Philippe Chatelier from the French Tennis Federation and asked him to come and see him. The boy was Yannick Noah, the last Frenchman to win the French Open.
As with any player, Alcaraz’s supernatural talent and skill played the biggest part in his fortune. When the chance to make a good impression arose, he did it, but luck had to bring the opportunity first.
The story of the occasion begins decades ago with Alcaráz’s grandfather’s decision to develop a tennis court and swimming pool for a hunting club in El Palmar, outside the city of Murcia. Hard courts would be cheaper, but Spaniards love red clay. So Grandpa Alcaraz (another Carlos) made sure to include those courts in development.
Now, remember what happened ten years ago. López Rueda is the head of Tennis Mania at Postres Reina, based in Caravaca de la Cruz. But Lopez Rueda doesn’t just love tennis. He likes playing tennis on red dirt. He lives in the same area as the Alcaraz family, and the best and most accessible clay court for him is at the El Palmar club, so he says he has been playing there for many years, being an executive at Postres Reina and a friend of the Alcaraz family. said Jose Lag. spoke on behalf of his boss, Lopez Rueda.
At the club, he befriended Alcaraz’s father and played as his uncle’s doubles partner. Also, Lopez Rueda’s son, who is three years older than Alcaraz, was under the same manager, Kiko Navarro, who never stopped praising Carlito’s talent. One day Lopez Rueda agreed to watch the boy play, but the play was unlike anything he had ever seen. Carlito had it all, but his family’s resources were limited. His father was a tennis coach and club manager, and his mother was busy raising the boy and his younger brothers.
López Rueda agreed to lend his family 2,000 euros to cover the cost of traveling to the tournament, but then he started to think bigger and was already tall, strong and determined to win the older competition. I decided to get the company involved to support a local boy who could.
Postres Reina has supported local basketball and soccer teams for many years, but tennis is Lopez Rueda’s favorite sport, and the company has never sponsored an individual athlete. Alcaraz became the first to have the company’s logo on his shirt.
The company’s support, which lasted into Alcaraz’s early teens, allowed him to continue receiving the best coaching in the region and to travel across Europe to play in the most competitive tournaments.
“This was not done for marketing gain,” Lag said. “It was just to help him. I never thought he’d be No. 1.”
Seeing Alcaraz’s success, sports and entertainment conglomerate IMG signed him at the age of 13, giving him even greater access, especially to his current coach, former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
If Lopez Rueda hadn’t seen Alcaraz, it’s entirely possible that he would have ended up being a top player. Spain’s tennis federation, which has one of the world’s best talent pipelines, probably caught his attention not too long ago.
IMG’s Tennis Director Max Eisenbud said the most important element in any tennis success story is a strong family willing to take a long-term view of their child’s success.
“That’s the secret recipe,” Eisenbud said in a recent interview, but also admitted that financial assistance to families in need certainly helps.
When a player like Alcaraz progressed so quickly, moving from outside the top 100 in May 2021 to No. 1 16 months later, the details of that development are likely to have influenced the results.
Alcaraz’s peers have watched in awe as he raised the bar of his play tournament after tournament at a time when the constant spotlight plagued many of his peers. During Alcaraz’s first few months at the top level of the tour, Alexander Zverev marveled at his ability to play “just for pleasure”.
Alcaraz said it took him some time to get used to the louder and more pressure-filled environment, no matter what people were watching, but he learned quickly. Nadal’s drubbing in Madrid two years ago helped, but his mindset never changed.
“I always wanted to play in a great stadium,” he said. And it really seems that way.
From his first Grand Slam win in the backcourt at the Australian Open in February 2021 to his back-to-back victories over Nadal and Djokovic at the 2022 Madrid Open, tennis has been a big focus for Alcaraz. Last September, Michelle Obama sat front row in front of 23,000 fans at the U.S. Open, playing Tiafoe in the semifinals and winning the final two days later.
How could that be? Allen Fox, Division I champion, 1965 Wimbledon quarter-finalist, and future leading sports psychologist, coined the term, which experts use when there is no rational explanation. Used. He described Alcaraz as a “genius” and a “genetic disorder”.
“The only way he loses is when he’s missing,” said Fox. “He just plays the same high-stakes game he always does, but he never takes his foot off the accelerator.”