Indian Wells Masters 2024: Carlos Alcaraz, a prodigy between two waters: fantasy and reason | Tennis | Sports


Sometimes, there’s nothing like a small accident to react to. But don’t let anyone be alarmed. This story has a happy ending, which is why Carlos Alcaraz clenches his fist, smiles and applauds from the center of the main court at Indian Wells, where he defends the title obtained a year ago and where, also, he wants to close the drought that prevents him from lift a trophy that has been denied since June. This Saturday is a good way to start: 6-7(6), 6-0 and 6-1 to Matteo Arnaldi, in 2h 13m, and an appointment in the next season of the Californian tournament with Felix Auger-Aliassime, one of the few rivals who dominate face to face (3-1) with the young Spaniard, who savors and celebrates because the last two weeks have not been easy. After the test Light in Las Vegas against Rafael Nadal, a first real-fire test that resolves with a triple positive interpretation: the reaction, the score and the verification that the ankle sprain (grade 2) that occurred at the premiere in Rio de Janeiro is recovered by the appropriate parameters.

“Las Vegas was a good test, and the truth is that it has been evolving well. It’s difficult to be one hundred percent, because it’s very recent, but I’m happy with the sensations I’m having so far,” says the one from El Palmar, who lately has been hearing a murmur in the background because he hasn’t eaten anything since Wimbledon and has been under pressure since the outside, while he insists on remembering: he is 20 years old, he maintains the competitive pulse, regularity in the course must be appreciated and, sooner or later, the reward will come. Pure and hard learning. “I don’t perceive failure or frustration. People think that if you don’t win titles it’s bad and that’s not the case. I started the year with good feelings in Australia (quarters); I didn’t have the best in Buenos Aires, but even so the level was good; and Rio was something unexpected. I have to learn from experiences and moments,” says the boy, immersed in the complex process of training, of defining his game. His instinct pulls to one side, and reason responds strongly from the other side of the rope.

“I try not to think too much about success, I try to get away from the noise. Fame and attention are good most of the time, but sometimes you wake up in a bad mood and you just want to hide and not be recognized,” he conceded two days ago, during the media day, while David Ferrer He explained from Las Vegas that at his age victory should not always be required, and that the process that covers all players, without exception, must be respected. “Carlos is a special tennis player, but he still has a lot of time left. I don’t remember Nadal or Djokovic winning everything at the age of 20,” Ferru emphasizes. On the other hand, the American Jimmy Connors, historical record holder for awards – 109, compared to Roger Federer’s 103 – continues to exert pressure through speech. If a year ago he warned her that his physical waste could cost him a lot of trouble, now he reminds her that the surprise factor has disappeared and that two other traveling companions, especially one of them, are hot on his heels.

“I think some players have realized how they should play against him. At first it caught them by surprise, but perhaps now they have assimilated a little how he plays. Jannik Sinner is approaching and Holger Rune is there,” Jimbo pointed out these days in his podcast, Advantage Connors. The American is not lacking in reason, especially with regard to the first; The Nordic threat has less solidity for now. The Italian wins and wins – 13 out of 13 this year after beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 and 6-0 – and seriously threatens the second place that the Spaniard currently holds on the world list; If he triumphs on the 17th in the Coachella Valley, he will unseat him. There is also a certain Novak Djokovic involved, the Serb is nostalgic because, he says when asked about Nadal, “it is the end of an era”, and the Russian Daniil Medvedev, the man he beat in the last one, can never be ruled out either. edition to raise for the first time the trophy for which all of them are currently fighting.

Alcaraz signs balls at the Indian Wells facilities.JOHN G. MABANGLO (EFE)

In any case, there is no better incentive for Alcaraz than himself and his ambition, knowing that at its peak, today very few—only two, specifically—can keep up with him. He is now working to recover the tone that he began to lose after winning Wimbledon and navigates between those two parallel realities: that of his fantasy and the rational one, between what his body constantly asks of him (Show and more Show) and what the logic of the construction of tennis demands. “He has chosen a more difficult path than Nadal,” said the famous Andre Agassi in Las Vegas, who believes that beyond the spectacular, the task that must occupy him right now is to mold and define a solid game structure to be long-term competitive, from one end of the point, of the match, of the season to the other. Glitter, yes, but above all a line that allows you to avoid too pronounced serrated peaks.

“Get the first four!”, his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, recommends, when he has already managed to right the story against Arnaldi and has signed a 9-0 partial that has shattered the rival’s illusion. “Order at the beginning and then we shoot!” insists the coach, satisfied with the reaction because the Italian (40th and 23 years old), another tennis player with a playful, creative and fun instinct in the eyes of the fan, has messed up in the first round until dirty Alcaraz’s forehand in the tiebreaker. “At this rate, in the end you suffocate them, man!”, adds the Valencian when the Murcian only needs to put the tie to the game, resolved by a stroke of faith, a timely tactical variable —instead of entering the rest , retreats three meters—and, above all, the finding of suitable balances; The number of errors in the first set (8-2) results in a record more in line with the category of both (14-16), and thus faces the fight with the thorny Auger-Aliassime, whom he reduced in the last edition of the tournament. An appointment that prepares you for a challenge of greater magnitude: only Roscoe Tanner (1978-79), Boris Becker (1987-88), Pete Sampras (1994-95), Michael Chang (1996-97), Lleyton Hewitt (2002-03), Federer (2004-06) and Djokovic (2014 -16) managed to retain the title in the men’s category at Indian Wells.



Apart from Alcaraz, the day also brought the advance of Roberto Carballés. The Granada native defeated Flavio Cobolli by a double 6-4 and will face the Russian Medvedev the next morning (not before 5:00, Movistar+). In the opposite direction, Nuria Párrizas lost to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6-3 and 6-1) and, therefore, the Spanish representation disappeared from the women’s draw.

On the other hand, last year’s champion, the Kazakh Elena Rybakina, announced her withdrawal shortly before facing Nuria Podoroska – due to a gastrointestinal problem – and is now exposed to the loss of 1,000 points, which puts fourth place in danger. position he currently holds in the ranking of the WTA.

Another notable highlight of the day was the victory of veteran Angelique Kerber against Jelena Ostapenko. This is her first victory against a top-10 in more than two years, since she interrupted her career due to motherhood. Today, the 36-year-old German is 607th in the world.

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