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Every match Carlos Alcaraz wins at Wimbledon is a grand slam in itself

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Rafael Nadal was a finalist at Wimbledon in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. In 2009, he did not participate due to injury. Five finals and two tournaments are not bad for a boy who is a specialist on clay and who played the last of those finals when he was just 25 years old. Now, before that splendor, there was an apprenticeship. Nadal dazzled the world in 2003, when he took down Mario Ancic in the first round. Hardly anyone remembers this long-standing Croatian player anymore, but he was the only one to beat Federer at Wimbledon since 2002…until Rafa himself did it in 2008.

That is to say, Nadal had already been showing what he was capable of in his “favorite tournament”, as he said as a pre-teen. And yet, when in 2005 he came for the first time as one of the candidates for the title, after a dream year that included his first title at Roland Garros, he barely lasted two games. He lost in the second round against Gilles Müller, an excellent Luxembourger server who would beat him twelve years later, in 2017, in the round of 16. The year of Federer’s resurrection.

It is possible that the same thing will happen to Alcaraz in 2022 as Rafa did in 2005. It would make even more sense because Alcaraz does not have a victory against Ancic nor a third round with seventeen years in his pocket. We all agree that Carlos’s game is perfectly suited to the grass… but that requires games, many games, on a circuit in which the players only step on the grass for a month… and some only they perform at Wimbledon , with no prior experience.

Alcaraz is an example of the latter. Indeed, Alcaraz may have taken things too far. One thing is to have talent, another thing is to sense that this talent is going to help you on grass… and a third thing is not to step on that surface on which you want to stand out. Alcaraz has appeared at Wimbledon 2022 having played only two matches as a professional on grass. Last year he beat Uchiyama (254th in the world) in five sets and then fell in three against Daniil Medvedev. That is all. This year, instead of gaining experience at Queen’s or Halle, he has preferred to take care of his arm and compete in the Hurlington exhibition. He did not win a set in two matches.

Thats the reality. Another thing is the speeches and the hopes. And or, for example, I am convinced that Alcaraz will end up doing well on grass and that he will be able to dominate the surface as he dominates the other two. I’m also convinced that, for that, he needs games, he needs hours, he needs to know the tricks of the boats, the effects, the rivals crouching the rest of the year that, suddenly, they enjoy like children at Wimbledon. Rivals like Jan-Lennard Struff, who was so close to removing Alcaraz from the middle at the first change.

It is true that Struff in the first round is a bummer. We are talking about a player with streaks, very good when he is motivated, and whose game is ideal on grass, with a powerful serve, good net play and a wild forehand. For history, that point will remain in the tie-break that Alcaraz won when his rival was already 3-0 in favor and that served to get closer 2-1 and in the end win the set. One of those points “made in Carlos” that require a wild physical effort and a privileged turn of the wrist , in this case, also, with one hand and with the backhand.

Now, at this point, one can lament the two sets lost and the impression that Alcaraz is not among the candidates to win this year… or rejoice over the three wins and the fact that in the next round he will go to face another hard bone of the grass, the Dutch Griekspoor , who has made the triptych Hertogenbosch-Halle-Mallorca during the month of June to reach Wimbledon at full strength. By now, every Carlos match is a grand slam in itself. The only opportunity during the year to practice your grass game and perfect it.

Although he starts as a great favorite in the bookmakers, it would not be unusual for Alcaraz to lose in the second round. We shouldn’t see it as a drama, at least. Until now, we have demanded the maximum from him because his conditions allowed for it. I propose that at Wimbledon we lower the bar a bit and look no further than the next match. That we celebrate each step of the round as a success in itself, something similar to what we did in 2020 or early 2021. On any other surface, Alcaraz is present. On grass, he is still future.

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