Carlos Alcaraz’s impact on men’s tennis may be such that he decides the “future history” of the sport, says seven-time major champion Mats Wilander.
And it’s this dynamic which Wilander feels Alcaraz can have a big say on, namely that the youngster could stand in the way of one or both of the two remaining GOATs adding to their Grand Slam singles tallies of 22 apiece.
In conversation with Eurosport’s Arnold Montgault, Wilander said: “After [Daniil] Medvedev beat Djokovic in the final of the US Open a couple of years ago, we thought that, ‘okay, he’s going to be the one making the difference’.
“And no, he isn’t, actually because Nadal and Djokovic are still winning Grand Slams. So there’s a chance that Alcaraz will be the one that’s going to decide the future history of our game. There is a chance!
“There is a very big chance because of what I saw in Indian Wells (where Alcaraz won the title), the talent, the joy, and because of the selection of shots that he has.
“When it comes to different match-ups, when Alcaraz is in charge of the rally he has so many more options than any tennis player that I’ve ever seen except Roger Federer.
“It doesn’t seem like it matters what the other person does if they don’t have the power because when he can control it he can hit so many different variety of shots and he’s confident in them. He’s got the hands, he’s got the explosives.
“He’s going to be one of the best players of all time. He’s going to be No. 1 in the world for many years during his career.
“Now, whether he stays there now or not I don’t know, and I did not know that after watching the US Open last year. Now, after destroying Medvedev in the [Indian Wells] final, 100% I believe that Carlos Alcaraz has more than what it takes to be the No. 1 in the world because even I got to No. 1 in the world and he has literally everything. It’s about match-ups for him.
“There is about 90% of the professional tour that he’s not going to have any problems with, and that is now what Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal have done in tennis for nearly 20 years. Now, 90% of the locker room has no chance, and 10% he might have to worry about.”
The upcoming French Open – the next major of the year – is shaping up to be a battle royale between Nadal and Djokovic, as a title win for either at Roland-Garros would see them back out on their own again on 23 Slams.
Wilander is, however, less certain about Alcaraz’s prospects on the clay.
He said: “I wonder, with five sets for Alcaraz on a clay court: can he keep coming up with shot after shot, choice after choice. Most of them have to be right against Nadal and Djokovic on the clay court. That is nearly impossible.
“Obviously, as we haven’t seen it done in the past [anyone beating Nadal and Djokovic in one French Open], at this moment, it is impossible.
“The same way that Nadal learned how to play on a grass court or on faster hard courts, Alcaraz, to me, is going to learn how to figure out the best way to play on a clay court.
Highlights: Alcaraz beats Medvedev to claim Indian Wells title and return to world No. 1
“Against the two veterans, Nadal and Djokovic, that is absolutely crucial because they will find that weakness in somebody’s movement or in somebody’s shot. I think for him [Alcaraz], it’s going to be movement. He is too fast for a slippery clay court.
“But yeah, he can beat one of them, he can have a good day, and it could be either of them for sure. But he’s got a little bit of a way to go to me to be a very big threat to win Roland-Garros if he has to play both Nadal and Djokovic.
“Now, of course, one can be injured. Then you only have one player in the final, so I’m not saying he can’t win it. He will win the French Open [one day], but I still want to see how he’s going to find his best clay-court game in five sets in Paris.”
Carlos Alcaraz (Roland-Garros 2022)
Image credit: Getty Images
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