Wherever you go these days at NY, there is Carlos Alcaraz. The Murcian, who a year ago won the first of his two greats in the city, becoming the youngest number 1 in history and also in the youngest champion in Flushing Meadows, is the Central image of the promotional campaign for this year’s edition of the Open from Tennis of United States, which starts this Monday. The image radiates all its energy and youthful strength from billboards, meanders through the streets captured on the sides of buses and is the ideal complement to the slogan chosen to publicize the tournament: “Spectacular awaits”, something spectacular awaits us.
The man from El Palmar returns to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with a debut this tuesday on Center Court Arthur Ashe in the ssecond game of the night session versus Dominik Koepfer, the German left-hander who is 78 in the world. And the option of becoming the first tennis player to renew in consecutive years the new york title since 2008, when Roger Federer won his fifth in a row at the Arthur Ashe center, he would already be enough of a magnet for a tournament that, for the first time since 1990, cannot advertise with the Swiss, retired last year; nor in Serena Williamswho also said goodbye in 2022 on these tracks and has just been second time mothernor in Rafael Nadala four-time winner in Flushing but absent for the third time in the last four years.
This 2023 has, however, a incentive more: allows imagine a dream ending who embodies the pinnacle of tennis today, the rivalry that is making the transition from the ‘Big Three’ golden to the new generation: a potential duel between Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic.
Nole, go for 24
The Serb, who could not be in New York last year due to restrictions on the entry to the United States of those not vaccinated against covid, he would be placed at number 1 by simply winning the first of his matches (this monday night against Frenchman Alexandre Muller). He arrives with the sweet aftertaste of the victory against the Murcian in Cincinnati, where just a week ago he won the final after an epic match, another one between the two, lasting almost four hours. But he also arrives with the memory of Wimbledon, where in an unforgettable match the pupil of Juan Carlos Ferrero it ended the possibility that the 2023 Australian and Roland Garros champion would achieve the four big events on the calendar in the year and add his 24th, that stated goal with which Nole would equal the record of Margaret Court and now it is within reach again.
New York has never been the luckiest setting for Djokovic, who although he has reached nine finals “only” has raised the title three times trophy (in 2011, 2015 and 2018) and he has experienced dark moments, such as the disqualification in 2020 after hitting a line judge. But as she said before the press on Friday, she has the 36 years “still the motivation”. His is “love” for the competition. He loves playing on the biggest track on the circuit, in front of the loudest crowd. And if there is someone whopush to the limit” and he brings out the best in him, which is so much so that he continues to show himself as one, if not the best in history, that is Alcaraz today.
Alcaraz, “more mature, better”
He Spanish reaches the Open, despite reaching the final in Cincinnati, after some weeks of most erratic tennis than he has been accustomed to, something that contributed to ato farewell in quarters in Montreal against Tommy Paul and forced him to play all the games to three sets to get to face Nole in Ohio. but i alsoIt hasn’t picked up the pace. And it grows on great occasions.
though he tries not think about the pressure of renewing the titlesomething that he admits makes things “probably more complicated”, he also knows that it has its advantages compared to 2022. “On the track I feel that I’m more mature, I’m a better player than a year ago”, he said in his press conference prior to the start of the tournament.
In that appearance, in which he wore a cap and a Michael Jordan T-shirtdid not avoid talking about the fDjokovic’s strengths, and the lessons he tries to extract and apply to his own game. “Is a mind rock. Never give up. In tough times, when he’s down and it looks like he’s going to lose, there is always the opportunity to continue playing and be able to win. It’s probably the most important thing he has, and what I’m trying to learn and bring to my game,” she would say.
A complex picture
He path until the final dreamed of by organizers and tennis lovers, and possibly by its two protagonists, although they have too much respect for the rest of the players to say so publicly, something is presented at least on paper harder for Carlitos than for Djokovic. On the Serbian route from the quarterfinals, the possibility of encounters with tennis players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Holger Rune or Casper Ruud, last year’s finalist. The potential great challenges for the Spaniard start earlier and are greater.
In fourth round Alcaraz could have to be measured at Cameron Norrie and, to overcome it, the worst would be yet to come. Because in rooms the draw has raised a potential meeting with Jannik Sinner, the young Italian who this month won the Montreal his first Master 1000 and that last year he almost frustrated the triumph of the Spaniard in an intense and memorable match in that same round, five hours and a quarter of brilliant and epic tennis where Sinner came to have a match point on his racket.
In semifinalsFurthermore, a possible rival would bethe three of the world and the man who in 2021 left Djokovic in New York at the gates of victory (and a Grand Slam): Daniel Medvedev. The Russian is one of those who thinks that “it is fantastic for tennis” and “a great story” that this rivalry between the Serb and Alcaraz, “a very strong player especially for his age”. But he assures that “now in each tournament a goal for everyone is try to prevent them from playing against each other” and he would not mind playing the role of “spoiler” for all those who long for the dream final.
Other Spaniards and the women’s team
Like Alcaraz, in the women’s tournament she will fight to renew the title (and get the three million dollarss that the winners receive) the polish Iga Swiatekalready owner of four majors, including her third Roland Garros this year, and whose number one would be safe from Aryna Sabalenka, the champion in Australia, if they meet in the final. It is a duel that players like Coco Gauff, the 19-year-old American who prevailed in Cincinnati and in which, together with the third seed, Jessica Pegula, the locals have their highest hopes.
In this women’s competition, this Tuesday will also see Paula Badosa, faced in her first match against the veteran Venus Williams, ‘wild card’. The Spanish participation completes it Sara Sorribes, Cristina Bucsa and Rebeka Masarova and, in the male box, Albert Ramos, Alejandro Davidovich, Roberto Carballés and Bernabé Zapata.