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French Open Tennis Championships

Trust your eyes, Carlos Alcaraz shows he really is a 'mega talent' in French Open victory

Dan Wolken

A trip through the social media archives reveals that the first time I watched Carlos Alcaraz play tennis was Feb. 19, 2020.

Just 16 years old but already a buzzworthy talent among those in the know, Alcaraz had been granted a wildcard entry to the ATP tournament in Rio de Janeiro playing Federico Coria, a longtime pro on the fringe of the top-100.听

Alcaraz would lose the match in three sets. But 30 minutes of viewing, he had won my conviction that the hype was deserved.听

"I鈥檝e seen enough on ," I posted to X that evening.

The purpose of sharing that is not to pat myself on the back for a banal observation from a few thousand miles away. If there were a line of people trying to buy stock in Alcaraz back then, it would have already stretched around a full city block.听

But in a sports world that has become so much more driven by data, sometimes it鈥檚 really as simple as trusting your eyes.听

From the moment he showed up on the scene, Alcaraz has been a "trust your eyes" All-Star. And now, just a month past his 21st birthday, he鈥檚 a three-time Grand Slam champion.听

Alcaraz defeated Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 in the French Open final on Sunday, cementing himself at the top of this era in a way that has seemed both inevitable and yet breathtakingly fast.听

He鈥檚 won Grand Slams on hard court, grass and clay 鈭 the first man ever to win his first three on different surfaces.听

He鈥檚 three-fourths of the way to the career Slam, needing only an Australian Open to join Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Fred Perry.听

If he never played another match, he鈥檚 already an all-time great.听

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates winning the French Open men鈥檚 singles final against Alexander Zverev on Day 15 at Roland Garros.

And yet it鈥檚 only the beginning, with so, so much more room to grow.听

Predictions about how far he can go? With this kid, it鈥檚 useless. Time is his friend, and his talent still needs to be molded and harnessed in some ways to optimize his game.听

There鈥檚 a heck of a long way between three Grand Slam titles and Djokovic鈥檚 record of 24 and plenty of things that can go wrong in the next decade and a half of Alcaraz鈥檚 career. But Djokovic may want to get over this knee injury and try to sneak in one or two more just in case.听

That鈥檚 not what the numbers would say. But it is absolutely what your eyes tell you about just how much game and guts this kid has in his bag.听

Sunday鈥檚 final against Zverev was a bit like Alcaraz鈥檚 career so far. The highs were very, very high. There were also some odd, inexplicable lows at moments where he had a clear opportunity for an early knockout.听

But in the end, when it was all on the line, Alcaraz had the discipline and focus and belief in his game that his opponent did not. That鈥檚 not a coincidence, either. It鈥檚 who he has always been in the big moments.听

At the 2022 91影视 Open, Alcaraz had to survive three consecutive five-setters to get to the final.

At Wimbledon last summer, he did something that seemed almost impossible by out-lasting Djokovic in five sets.听

And at this French Open, which started with questions about a forearm injury that had limited him in lead-up tournaments, he was by far the more confident and better player in the fifth set against both Zverev in the final and Jannik Sinner in the semifinals.

The thing about Alcaraz 鈭 and what jumped off the screen so clearly even at age 16 鈭 is that his combination of bold shotmaking and canniness in deploying his array of weapons has almost no equal or precedent in the history of the sport.

He does not have the biggest or best serve on tour and is susceptible to being broken more than other top player. He often makes more unforced errors than it seems like he should. He has odd dips within matches where he seems to lose focus and get himself in trouble out of nowhere.

All of that happened against Zverev. Alcaraz should have easily won the third set, then collapsed out of nowhere and had to figure out a way to get back even in the fourth. It was totally unnecessary for this match to go five sets. It was also an opportunity to show once again how amazing this young Spaniard is under pressure and how he uses both offense and defense to create conflict for opponents in ways nobody else currently playing the game can pull off.听

Barring a lack of motivation or injury 鈭 always a concern with his physical his style of tennis 鈭 Alcaraz should get better. Maybe even a lot better. His serve can still become more of a difference-maker. He can still cut some fat from his game, do a better job controlling the impulse to go for a highlight-reel shot when a standard rally ball would be the better choice.听

At the same time, the daring creativity Alcaraz brings to the table is often what separates him from guys like Zverev, who prefer a kind of game where they can camp behind the baseline and rhythmically hit ground strokes all day.听

The comparison is a bit trite at this point, but Alcaraz truly is a combination of Federer鈥檚 offensive skill set, Nadal鈥檚 competitiveness and Djokovic鈥檚 all-court movement, with a tactical mind far beyond his years.听

Even as someone who was sold on him a long time ago, winning three Grand Slam titles at this stage of his career is beyond what anyone could have expected.听

But it鈥檚 happening, and it鈥檚 not going to stop anytime soon. Trust your eyes because they鈥檙e not lying to you. He really is this special.听

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