By Ricky Dimon
Whereas everybody wanted to avoid Carlos Alcaraz in the French Open draw, perhaps nobody was too concerned with where he landed in the field of 128 at Wimbledon.
Fast forward through the first week and it suddenly looks like a potential Alcaraz vs. Novak Djokovic match in the quarterfinals could be an absolute blockbuster.
The 19-year-old had played only two matches in his career on grass prior to arriving at the All-England Club. On the heels of a grueling and mostly successful clay-court swing that came immediately following the Miami Masters title, he did not play a single warmup tournament before Wimbledon and instead chose to rest. Thus expectations were relatively low for the season’s third Grand Slam.
Well, Alcaraz Mania that engulfed the ATP Tour from February through May could be back in a big way.
Since requiring five sets to get past Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round, the world No. 7 has taken his grass-court court game to new heights. He made relatively routine work of Tallon Griekspoor (6-4, 7-6(0), 6-3) in the second round was even more impressive in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 destruction of Oscar Otte on Friday evening. Alcaraz fired 37 winners compared to only eight unforced errors while storming through that third-round contest in a mere one hour and 38 minutes.
It’s not like Otte is some kind of pushover on a grass court, either. The 36th-ranked German recently advanced to the semifinals in both Stuttgart and Halle, beating four top-30 opponents in the process.
So when you destroy Otte with the loss of just six games in three sets, you are doing something right.“I played unbelievable today,” Alcaraz assured. “This was my best performance (of the tournament) so far. So I’m really happy with the level.
“Just hours on court,” he said when asked about the reason for his improvement match by match. “I’m more comfortable [moving] on grass right now than (in) the first round, for example. Every training, every match that I play, I feel more comfortable. Every day that [goes by], I feel more ready.
“On grass you have to play aggressive, you have to go to the net, you have to try to play more aggressive than the opponent. That’s my idea that I try in every match, to [not] let the opponent dominate the game, dominate the match. Right now I think I did it. I’m trying to in the next round [to do] it again.”
Dominate is exactly what Djokovic has done in each of his last two matches. Now if the Serb and Spaniard can get past Tim van Rijthoven and Jannik Sinner, respectively, the stage will be set.
It didn’t seem like it a few days ago, but suddenly it’s a stage that could produce something special.
Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.