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Timing Is Every thing for Carlos Alcaraz


The U.S. Open victory party at Carlos Alcaraz’s Manhattan hotel wrapped up before 3 a.m. on Monday, which was early by his standards at this round the clock Grand Slam event.

“I got to bed at 5:15 a.m. after the Cilic match, and 6 a.m. after the Sinner match,” he explained quite wearily as he sat within the back seat of a sport utility vehicle, shifting his gaze from his interlocutor to the streetscape outside the tinted windows.

He was rolling toward Times Square for a rendezvous along with his recent trophy, and upon arrival, he stepped onto the sidewalk in his jeans and blue-and-white sneakers and was soon holding the silverware high with the photographers — skilled and amateur — clicking away as a crowd began to assemble.

“Numero uno!” shouted someone in Spanish.

Alcaraz took note, just as he had after waking up on Monday and looking out on the updated ATP rankings on his phone.

“I needed to ensure,” he said.

At 19, Alcaraz is the youngest No. 1 for the reason that ATP rankings were created in 1973. That is sort of a feat in a sport that has had loads of prodigies: from Bjorn Borg to Mats Wilander, Boris Becker to Pete Sampras, to Alcaraz’s Spanish compatriot Rafael Nadal, who also won his first major at age 19 (on the 2005 French Open).

But Alcaraz’s meteoric rise to the highest has not been due simply to his genius — though the word, which must be used very sparingly in tennis or the rest, does appear to apply in his acrobatic case.

His coronation can also be as a consequence of timing:

To Novak Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated for Covid-19, which kept him out of this yr’s Australian Open and U.S. Open and 4 Masters 1000 events in North America.

To Nadal’s limited schedule due to a series of injuries.

To the extraordinary situation at Wimbledon, which Djokovic won again in July but which earned him no rating points; the tournament had been stripped of points by the boys’s and ladies’s tours due to Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players over the war in Ukraine.

Alcaraz’s situation is radically different from the case of Nadal, who, because the longtime No. 2, needed to chase Roger Federer for years before finally securing the highest rating.

Alcaraz has reached No. 1 before the top of his second full season on tour and after winning his first major title with a four-set victory over Casper Ruud on Sunday.

“Look, I don’t need to take credit away from myself,” Alcaraz said. “However it’s true that Rafa, Djokovic, Federer, they were in a period once they were all playing. I had the luck or whatever you would like to call it that Djokovic couldn’t play. Everybody has their reasons, but that’s the fact. He couldn’t play much for some time, and Rafa kept playing but not all yr, either. But like I said, I don’t need to take credit away from myself. I even have been playing all season, playing incredible matches and incredible tournaments, and I’ve worked really hard in order that things like this might occur.”

At the top of 2021, Alcaraz was considered certainly one of the brightest young talents in the sport and was ranked No. 32. Lower than nine months later, he has won the Rio Open, Miami Open, Barcelona Open, Madrid Open and now his first Grand Slam title on the U.S. Open.

Along the best way, he has beaten the old guard, defeating Nadal and Djokovic in Madrid, and the brand new wave, defeating the 21-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, the 24-year-old American Frances Tiafoe and the 23-year-old Ruud in Recent York.

Alcaraz’s latest duel with Sinner within the quarterfinals was the match of the tournament, played at near full throttle for five sets in five hours and quarter-hour, with Alcaraz saving a match point within the fourth set.

It was also the latest-finishing match in U.S. Open history, wrapping up at 2:50 a.m., which is actually notable but additionally a dubious honor even when the tournament presented him with a commemorative photo from that record-breaking match on Sunday.

Ending at that hour (and going to sleep at 6 a.m.) is not any way for an elite athlete to optimize performance or for a serious sports event to maximise its reach even when tennis is a worldwide sport and a couple of:50 a.m. in Recent York is prime time in certain parts of the world.

On the upside, this was the primary time in U.S. Open history that each one sessions in Arthur Ashe Stadium were sold out. That was due, partially, to the impact of Serena Williams’s announcement that the top of her profession was imminent, which spiked interest in first-week tickets in Ashe Stadium.

But Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Open tournament director, said officials will surely take one other have a look at the night-session schedule before the 2023 Open.

But what is obvious is that Alcaraz’s three consecutive late-night marathons didn’t keep him from the championship. He beat Marin Cilic, Sinner and Tiafoe in five sets before defeating Ruud, becoming the third man within the Open era to win a serious after winning three consecutive five-setters. (Stefan Edberg did it on the 1992 U.S. Open, and Gustavo Kuerten did it on the 1997 French Open.)

Just like the elegant Edberg’s and the elastic Kuerten’s, Alcaraz’s powers of recovery were astonishing, and for now at the very least he plans to play within the Davis Cup for Spain later this week in Valencia after flying home.

In an interview with the Spanish publication El País, Juanjo Moreno, Alcaraz’s physiotherapist, said Alcaraz had a “good genetic predisposition that we have now managed to bring to its maximum splendor.”

Moreno explained that the team paid close attention to Alcaraz’s hydration and energy replenishment during matches, which included the ingestion of caffeine, a legal complement.

But Moreno said post-match recovery was the important thing: specializing in using a stationary bike, hot-and-cold contrast baths, massage and what he calls the “4 Rs.” Those are “rehydration, replenishment of muscle glycogen, restoration of lost amino acids and recovery for the immune system.”

Quality sleep can also be essential. “The opposite day, we helped him with a sleep complement because we had given him a variety of caffeine,” Moreno told El País.

But Alcaraz said on Monday that other less-scientific aspects were also in play.

“I’m 19 years old,” he said with a smile. “And I even have worked quite a bit and really hard day after day on recovery, and I even have a powerful team.”

He offered his thanks.

“But above all, it was happening the court with the adrenaline, the matches and the whole lot,” he said. “You forget the pain. You forget the fatigue, and also you push through.”

Alcaraz used the Spanish word “aguantar,” which his team kept shouting at him in Recent York from the players’ box.

“In fact, I felt soreness,” Alcaraz said. “After so many matches, it was so difficult, and things are bothering you, but you’ve gotten to fight through it.”

He did so in often-spectacular style, displaying his phenomenal quickness and timing, his ability to adapt on the fly and his rare capability to take big risks on big points that repay.

It is sort of a skill set, quite a fan-friendly package, and it made for a much happier ending in Recent York than in his first appearance in 2021 when, after an upset of Stefanos Tsitsipas within the third round, he later needed to retire with a leg injury against Felix Auger-Aliassime within the second set of their quarterfinal.

“A yr ago, I got here here as a recent guy, a child who was experiencing the whole lot for the primary time, including Arthur Ashe Stadium,” Alcaraz said. “I believe I used to be a player who could win against anyone but was not able to have the physical, mental and tennis level for 2 full weeks.

“One yr later, I even have modified quite a bit. I feel I’m able to hold this level.”

The proof was there in Times Square on Monday as he held his trophy aloft, but, above all, the proof was there in Ashe Stadium night after late night as he held off rival after rival with the group of nearly 24,000 often making him feel like he was playing at home. (The Tiafoe match was an exception.)

“I believe my town in Spain has concerning the same population as Arthur Ashe Stadium,” said Alcaraz, who comes from El Palmar, a suburb of Murcia. “I took a moment in the course of the final and looked around and to see all those people and all those seats filled to the highest row was incredible.”

During an interview before the season, Alcaraz was asked which major tournament he would most prefer to win. The U.S. Open was his answer.

Mission achieved even when the love affair could also be only starting.

“I feel a special bond,” he said. “I believe my game matches up with that court and what the individuals are searching for once they come. There’s energy. It’s dynamic, and I believe they don’t know what I’m going to do next. I believe that’s a part of the connection.”

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