Carlos Alcaraz may have been a dominant force on the ATP Tour in 2022, but that does not mean the 19-year-old is afraid to seek help from his fellow players as and when required.
The Spaniard takes on Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday. As he prepares for just the second tour-level grass-court tournament of his career, Alcaraz admitted he is happy to learn from others to make up for his relative inexperience on the surface.
“Of course. I try to watch the training of the best players,” said Alcaraz in his pre-tournament press conference on Sunday, shortly after hitting with British No. 2 Daniel Evans. “I think he [Evans] plays very well on grass. I’m trying to copy some things from the best [players].
“I always watch videos of [Roger] Federer, [Novak] Djokovic, Rafa [Nadal], Andy [Murray] as well. I try to copy moves and stuff from them.”
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As a fellow Spaniard who also grew up playing predominantly on clay, two-time champion Nadal is a particularly important example for Alcaraz. The 19-year-old believes Nadal’s success on grass serves as an obvious example for him to follow.
“[Rafa has won] so many tournaments on grass,” said Alcaraz. “[He] won twice here at Wimbledon. You think that you are able to adapt your game to grass court.”
Alcaraz has certainly proven himself a fast learner on Tour in 2022. Starting the year at No. 32 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, he lifted trophies in Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid in the first half of the season, and in April became the youngest player to crack the Top 10 since Nadal in 2005. Yet Alcaraz admits that the grass represents a different proposition, especially after an elbow issue prevented him playing at The Queen’s Club two weeks ago.
“I always say that it’s not easy to play on grass, and I couldn’t play a tournament before Wimbledon, so this week is going to be tough for me,” he said. “But I’m getting ready… Now I’m serving a little bit more the slice and not the kick. But it bounces well when I hit the kick as well. [But] I’m not playing the kick serve as much as I want here.
“The hardest thing on grass is to move. I would say to play aggressive, trying to go to the net, this is the best part of my game that translates [from] other surfaces to this one… I would say I have a game that is going to adapt well on grass.”
After reaching the second round on tournament debut in 2021, when he fell to Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, the historic surroundings at Wimbledon are no longer unfamiliar for Alcaraz. The experience of competing on the grass in south-west London still triggers excitement in the young Spaniard, however, and the prospect of playing a first match on Centre Court only serves as extra motivation.
“Wimbledon is one of the most beautiful tournaments in the world for me,” said Alcaraz, whose first-round match against Struff is scheduled on Court 1 on Monday. “The Centre Court is amazing for me. [There have] been great matches, historic matches, on this court.
“I remember watching a lot of matches on Centre Court since the beginning of everything, since I was a kid. For me it means a lot to be able to play in this tournament. I will try to pass rounds to be able to play in the Centre Court.”