Carlos Alcaraz is making magic again

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POSITIVE
It happens every time that guy Carlos Alcaraz takes the court.
And they are probably right because even as he muddled (for him) his way through the past six months or so, experiencing some version of a sophomore slump, Alcaraz has never failed to produce the spectacular.
On Sunday, in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the moment arrived a little more than halfway through the first set against Daniil Medvedev.
A perfectly lofted short-range lob came at Alcaraz as he closed in on the net.
At the final moment, he realizes that because of the way he’s holding his racket in his forehand grip, he can’t get under the ball.
At this point, pretty much everyone else who has ever done this for a living takes a desperate swat and the ball skitters across the ground into the net.
Not so with Alcaraz.
In a split second, he does this tiny wrist rotation and swipes at the ball with what in this moment is the backside of his strings.
And the point goes on and a few shots later, he cracks a forehand down the line and Medvedev watches it whistle by.
AdvertisementHours later, with a big glass trophy sitting next to him after his 7-6(5), 6-1 triumph, Alcaraz was at a loss to explain just what had happened on that little first miracle of a point.
“Something happened to my feet that I couldn’t jump,” he said.
His family and his coaches kept asking him what was wrong.
He had no answers for them, which, in some ways, made it worse.
When he sprained his ankle in Rio last month, he was as low as he had been since the start of his career.
And that is about what happened to Alcaraz over the past two weeks in the Coachella Valley.
“Points like this one give me extra motivation to put a smile on my face,” he said — with a smile on his face.
Alcaraz is simply too gifted and too dedicated to the sport to let this eight-month drought without a title go on much longer.
Why would the arc of his early career be any different from that point?
At the moment the first whispers of doubt were starting, when his close friend and rival Jannik Sinner was making his play for supremacy, Alcaraz surged to life.
Alcaraz is nothing if not resilient, especially when an A-list crowd is on hand, as it was on Sunday in the desert.
Rod Laver was there, and Maria Sharapova, and the actors Charlize Theron, Zendaya and Tom Holland.
When Alcaraz is on the court, especially in a final, a tennis match evolves into a happening and for the first couple of years, he almost always delivered.
When that stopped happening during the past eight months, something felt slightly off with the tennis universe.
The win gave Alcaraz his second consecutive title in what plenty of players and much of the sport consider the most important tournament that is not a Grand Slam.
In 2022, at 19, he became the youngest player ever to get to the top of the rankings.
A shot or two here and there, Cervara said, but this one was on Alcaraz’s racket.
Medvedev said that when Alcaraz raised his level in the first set, he “kind of managed to be there and to try to catch his level, but I was just a little bit down.
In the end, this down was going down, down, down, and he was going up, up, up”.
In the women’s final, Iga Swiatek beat Maria Sakkari to win her second Indian Wells title in three years.
Swiatek won 6-4, 6-0, taking out Greece’s most successful female player with a crisp efficiency that has become her trademark.
And Swiatek being Swiatek, the win came with at least one set of pure domination – a second set ‘bagel’ in the scoreline that so often adds an exclamation point to so many of her victories.
There were more reasons for jitters when things got started for her at Indian Wells 10 days ago.
After that came Linda Noskova, the young Czech who sent her home in Melbourne.
A master of clay court tennis, she had suddenly proven to herself that she could win on the hard court.
(Robert Prange/Getty Images)“I’ve played bigger hitters, but at the same time she takes away time from you,” Sakkari said.
In years past, stepping onto the red clay felt like coming home and she looked forward to it.
“Now it doesn’t really matter,” she said in a bit of a flex.
AdvertisementFor Alcaraz, the flexes often come in the form of those little miracles that he manages more than anyone else.
Medvedev, who can pull off a few of his own every so often, knows the effect they can have when you do manage one.
“You feel like, OK, you can do more and more, hit stronger, hit faster and be better,” he said.
And that’s what happened as the match moved to the second set and its seemingly inevitable conclusion.
Medvedev would pound the ball over and over and Alcaraz would send it back, unbothered.
“He makes one good shot, I’m in trouble and I lose the point,” Medvedev said.
Mentally it’s not easy to play against this.”(Frey/TPN/Getty Images)No one knows this better than Alcaraz.
From 80 feet away, it’s not hard at all to see a foe’s shoulders sagging, his spirit breaking, his head shaking with amazement and h

Every time Carlos Alcaraz takes the court, something like this occurs. There’s one crazily bizarre moment where he does something that even longtime tennis watchers will swear they have never seen before—something they will never do with their favorite doubles partner.

And it’s likely that they are correct, as Alcaraz has consistently delivered remarkable performances, even though he struggled to make progress over the last six months.

The moment came a little over halfway through the opening set against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday in the BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells.

As Alcaraz closed in on the net, a perfectly lofted short-range lob was launched towards him. He first believes he can leap backwards and smack it, but halfway through the move, he realizes he needs to turn and spring to catch up with it. He succeeds in doing so just in time to see it land on the purple hard court once more.

The Alcaraz-of-it-all truly takes hold at that point. In the last second, he realizes he can’t get under the ball because of the way he’s holding his racket in his forehand grip. Almost everyone else who has ever played this sport for a living at this point gives it a last-ditch swat, causing the ball to skitter across the ground and into the net. With Alcaraz, not so.

He swings his wrist just a little bit faster, swiping the ball with what are now his backside strings in an instant.

He continues the point, and a few shots later, Medvedev watches as he cracks a forehand down the line, whistling past.

With Alcaraz staking his claim to the game’s present and future, heaving on every stroke, clinching a title while watching a final error float off the court, and hugging both his real father and his tennis coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, as thousands of fans showered him in praise, tennis was back to where it was last summer.

Publicity.

After winning 7-6(5), 6-1, and having a large glass trophy next to him for hours, Alcaraz struggled to explain what went wrong on that little first miraculous point.

“My feet had an incident that prevented me from jumping,” he remarked. “You just have to throw in one more ball and move on to the next one when something like that occurs. “.

Alcaraz has stated time and time again over the past two weeks that the last few months have not been easy for him. The main issue was that he could never seem to find the same happiness he always felt when holding a racket, whether he was competing or just training. Sure, the loss was strange, but that wasn’t the main issue. His coaches and family would not stop asking him what was wrong.

It was made worse, in a way, by the fact that he had no answers for them. He was at his lowest point since the beginning of his career when he sprained his ankle in Rio last month.

Photos by Buda Mendes/Getty Images.

People have been traveling to California for a fresh start, a second chance at life, or a chance to rediscover their true identity for almost 200 years, if not longer. And that’s essentially what transpired in the Coachella Valley with Alcaraz during the last two weeks.

When the boy returned, the show really got going, never more so than during those wild moments in the first set when the 16,000-person capacity crowd went into a frenzy of their own, sprinting, wrist-flicking, and passing up the line.

“Such moments of inspiration provide me with additional drive to wear a smile,” he remarked, grinning.

This was going to occur sooner rather than later. Alcaraz is just too talented and too committed to the game to allow this eight-month title drought to continue. Why would that point alter the trajectory of his early career?

Just as the initial murmurs of uncertainty were beginning, when rival and close friend Jannik Sinner was attempting to assert his dominance, Alcaraz erupted. Following his victory over Sinner in the semifinals, he exacted revenge on Medvedev, who had ended his bid to defend his title at the U.S. s. Opened in September, right at the beginning of this fallow season.

In the desert on Sunday, Alcaraz proved to be unflappable, especially in the presence of an A-list audience. Tom Holland, Charlize Theron, and Zendaya were present, along with Rod Laver and Maria Sharapova. A tennis match becomes a spectacle when Alcaraz is on the court, particularly in a final, and during the first few years, he virtually always produced. There was a small sense of unease in the tennis world when that ceased to occur during the previous eight months.

Don’t bother anymore. Alcaraz’s victory marked his second straight championship in what many athletes and fans alike view as the most significant non-grand slam competition. Even though it was only his second attempt at holding the top spot in the sport, it was the 13th title of a career that is only getting started. He became the youngest player to ever reach the top of the rankings in 2022, at the age of 19.

Photo by Matthew Stockman via Getty Images.

After it was over, Medvedev sat in the locker room with his coach, Gilles Cervara, and told him he didn’t regret the afternoon. Cervara asked if he did. Cervara claimed that while there were occasionally shots, this one was on Alcaraz’s racket.

According to Medvedev, he “kind of managed to be there and to try to catch his level, but I was just a little bit down” when Alcaraz raised his game in the opening set. Ultimately, he was moving upward and this downward was moving downward.

Promoting something.

Alcaraz was not the only one who restored order to the world on Sunday. Iga Swiatek defeated Maria Sakkari in the women’s final to claim her second Indian Wells title in three years. With her trademark crisp efficiency, Swiatek defeated Greece’s most successful female player 6-4, 6-0. And because Swiatek is Swiatek, the victory required at least one set of complete dominance. The second set, or “bagel,” in the scoreline, is what gives so many of her victories an extra boost.

The 22-year-old Swiatek, who has already won four Grand Slams but none since June, displayed her resiliency last autumn when she dropped out of the top spot that she had held for 76 weeks. After a stumble at the Australian Open, Swiatek appeared to have regained her dominance by the end of the season, but Aryna Sabalenka was beginning to show her true colors. When things first started for her at Indian Wells ten days ago, there were more causes for anxiety.

Danielle Collins, the opponent she had almost defeated in Australia, was her first opponent. The young Czech woman Linda Noskova followed, sending her back to her home in Melbourne. Collins won three contests. Noskova was given four. Each had to put up with a second-set bagel.

Swiatek’s breakthrough came two weeks after she won here two years prior, when she completed the “Sunshine Double” with a victory at the Miami Open. She was a clay court tennis expert, but now she had shown herself that she could succeed on a hard court.

“I’m just really happy with the work this time,” Swiatek remarked.

Not so much her opponents. She has so much energy stored up that they know she has used her efficiency and dominance to craft a strategy that has resulted in a 19-4 record in finals and six straight victories in the championship match.

Source: Robert Prange/Getty Images.

“She takes away time from you, but I’ve played bigger hitters,” Sakkari remarked. It required several games for me to simply adjust to her timing. “.

For all the other ladies, the frightening aspect is that the clay court swing, Swiatek’s season’s high point, is still three weeks away. She used to look forward to walking onto the red clay because it felt like home.

She uttered a small flex when she said, “Now it doesn’t really matter.”.

Promotion.

Alcaraz’s flexes usually take the shape of those small miracles that he performs better than anyone else. Medvedev, who occasionally manages to pull off a few of his own, is aware of the impact they can have.

“You get the feeling that you can do more and more, hit harder, hit quicker, and be more proficient,” he remarked.

And that’s precisely what happened as the match progressed into the second set, which was ultimately decided. There were times when it seemed as though the balls bouncing off Alcaraz’s racket were defying gravity and gaining velocity as they shot off his racket and flew past or bounced up to Medvedev.

Medvedev would repeatedly strike the ball, yet Alcaraz would simply return it without any concern.

Medvedev remarked, “He makes one good shot, I’m in trouble and I lose the point.”. It’s challenging. Playing against this is difficult mentally. “.

(Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images).

Alcaraz knows this better than anyone else. Seeing an opponent’s shoulders slump, his spirit crumbling, and his head shaking with shock and helplessness from 80 feet away is not difficult at all.

Furthermore, nothing works quite as well as a little bit of magic thinking and hitting, either temporarily or over time. He claimed that the erratic sequence of shots as the tension built was beneficial for his and the wider game, but more significantly, it was beneficial for his soul.

He remarked, “I always say that when I’m smiling, I play better.”. “Points like this one make me happy regardless of whether I win or lose. I believe it encourages me to continue honing my skills and play my best tennis during the game. “.

Alcaraz’s best tennis is reportedly still to come, according to the wise people.

(Main image courtesy of Matthew Stockman/Getty Images).

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