Carlos Alcaraz: ‘I want to sit at the same table as the big three.’ Spaniard charts path to greatness ahead of Wimbledon


Wimbledon, London
CNN

For Carlos Alcaraz, age is just a number.

The Spanish tennis prodigy is no stranger when it comes defying logic, expectations and time to rewrite the history books.

The youngest year-end No. 1 in the history of men’s tennis at just 19. The youngest male player to win three grand slams on three different surfaces – the 2022 US Open, Wimbledon in 2023 and the French Open in 2024 – at 21.

Achievements, incidentally, already inked on his skin.

As he prepares to defend his Wimbledon title, the boy born to be world No. 1 is intent on fulfilling grander ambitions.

“I want to be one of the best in history. I am dreaming that big,” Alcaraz told CNN Sport at a Babolat event, the official partner and equipment supplier of Wimbledon, prior to the tournament.

“I want to sit [at] the same table as the ‘Big Three’ [Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer]legends of our sports.”

Given the rate at which Alcaraz is racking up grand slam titles, you’d be bold to bet against him joining the game’s top table.

But has he been surprised at how quickly he’s risen through the tennis ranks?

“Sometimes,” he smiles. “Honestly, [though]I don’t think too much about it. I just kind of live in the moment, live in the present.

“If I look back, [of course] I’ve achieved great things so far, but it’s something that I don’t want to think about and I want to keep going.”

Alcaraz’s team, led by former world No. 1 and 2003 French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero, have instilled a mentality that emphasizes the importance of perseverance and hard work – “a culture of effort” – as his physiotherapist Juanjo Moreno told CNN in 2022.

In addition to the culture of excellence built around him, the Spanish star has also been able to take inspiration from his compatriots – a long line of Spanish men and women who have tasted grand slam success.

Take, for example, the French Open.

Nadal leads the way with a record-breaking 14 titles at the tournament, while the aforementioned Ferrero, Albert Costa, Carlos Moyá, Sergi Bruguera and Garbiñe Muguruza have all been champions since 1993.

Alcaraz is now spearheading a new generation of Spanish talent set on building on the legacy of his predecessors.

What, though, does he put this success down to?

“In Spain, we have a lot of players to practice, a lot of places, amazing players. We eat well, the weather,” he laughs.

“I’m really proud of the country that I am [from] and I think that’s something super great for Spain, for Spanish sport and, obviously, for myself.”

Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon crown on Monday against Estonia’s Mark Lajal.

Aside from looking to win back-to-back titles on the grass courts of SW19, the 21-year-old also has a chance to do what only five male players in the Open Era have done: winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season.

“Obviously, it’s even more special coming [back] as a defending champion,” he says.

“I’m trying not to think about the pressure that I have to defend the points or [that I] want to go far.

“I just want to be better every day, trying to play my best in every match and give 100%.

“I think that the difference [with] last year is I’m a little bit more mature and I know how to play on grass. I have more experiences about playing in this surface.”

Alcaraz goes into the tournament as the joint favorite, alongside current world No. 1 Jannik Sinner, to lift the men’s title. The duo are scheduled to meet in a potential blockbuster semifinal matchup.

And should the stars align, we could have a repeat of last year’s epic five-set thriller between Alcaraz and Djokovic.

The 37-year-old Serb arrives at Wimbledon having recently undergone knee surgery after tearing the meniscus in his right knee during his fourth-round match against Francisco Cerúndolo at last month’s French Open.

Were Djokovic to equal Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles, he would become the oldest champion of the modern era.

Alcaraz, though, is fully focused on doing what he needs to do.

“For me, it doesn’t matter against who I’m going to play,” he explains. “Of course, everybody wants to watch Jannik [Sinner] against me in the semifinal or Jannik or me playing a final against Novak.

“I think that everybody is waiting for that moment, but it’s a really long process, really long run. Let’s see if I’m going to be in this position.”

Alcaraz celebrates winning match point against Alexander Zverev in the men's French Open final.

Sunday, July 14 could mark a momentous day in the Spanish sporting calendar.

Not only could we see Alcaraz representing his country in a second consecutive Wimbledon men’s singles final, but his countrymen could also be in a position to vie for the Euro 2024 title in the final in Berlin.

It would top off what’s been an extraordinarily successful month and a half in both sporting circles for the Spaniard.

Alcaraz’s soccer summer got off to the perfect start with his club Real Madrid winning a record-extending 15th European cup with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund.

That was followed a little over a week later with a maiden French Open title on the clay courts of Paris and confirmation soon after that the young star will join forces with Nadal in a dream doubles partnership at this month’s Paris Olympic Games.

“It has been a really good month for me,” he smiles.

“As a Real Madrid fan, I was watching in Paris [during the French Open]. That run at Roland Garros was unbelievable for me. Really happy for me. A dream come true.

“I’m really, really happy with everything that I’m living right now.

“[So] it could be awesome. Same day, me playing in a final in Wimbledon, Spain playing a Euros final. It could be a great moment for Spain, for our country.

“I trust in the Spanish national team and I believe [in] myself as well.”

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