Tennis icon explains why Carlos Alcaraz’s brilliance will have a knock-on effect on tennis in general

Shahida Jacobs
Carlos Alcaraz in action

Carlos Alcaraz is one of the “best movers” in tennis and his brilliant all-round game will put pressure on other players to improve, according to tennis great Martina Navratilova.

The Spaniard made his initial breakthrough in 2021 when he won his first ATP Tour title at the age of 18, but his game went up a few notches last year as he won four titles – including the ATP Masters 1000 Miami Open and Madrid Open – in the space of three months.

He followed it up with his maiden Grand Slam at the US Open in September with the title also helping him to become the youngest world No 1 at the age of 19.

After missing the start of the 2023 season due to injury, Alcaraz now looks back to his best as he won the Argentina Open and the Indian Wells Open while he could become only the eighth men’s player to win the Sunshine Double if he successfully defends his Miami Open title this week.

Eighteen-time Grand Slam winner Navratilova feels Alcaraz currently has “no weaknesses” and is the best mover in tennis.

“Last year, when he won this tournament, I put him up there with [Daniil] Medvedev, [Novak] Djokovic and [Rafael] Nadal, since [Roger] Federer wasn’t playing, in the top four in a major. I saw it as it wasn’t an accident the way he played here,” she told the Tennis Channel.

“He’s been improving so much but already came to the tour as a full-on player, full-court, really no weaknesses, and then he made his strengths even stronger. The way he moves on the court he is the best mover on the court bar none on all the surfaces, particularly on these hard courts.

“You could see he was a player and the comparisons are apt, the expectations are there. But I think he doesn’t feel the pressure that much himself because he’s in it for the long run. He is thinking ‘I wanna be the greatest of all time’ which is going to take 10 years plus, maybe 15.

“He’s in it for the long run, which takes the pressure off at the moment.”

The likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Casper Ruud and Jannik Sinner were all touted as potential Grand Slam winners before Alcaraz arrived on the scene, but they have taken a back seat to the 19-year-old.

Asked if the teenager’s success has forced others to step up, Navratilova replied: “When you are younger every year makes a difference so if you think ‘I am two years older, but the guy is beating me what’s going to happen two years from now because he is still going to improve more’.

“But you cannot be thinking about it too much, just think about what you can control and hopefully take something good from it.

“I do see the knockdown effect already, more players using more drop shots. I think he will have an effect on the game, in players really seeing, ‘I just cannot hit amazing forehands and backhands, I have to be an all-court player, I have to have the touch, I have to be brave, etc’.

“I think he’ll have a really good influence on the players the way he’s been influenced by Rafa Nadal, in his demeanour and the way he plays. I think he will have the knockdown effect on other players, on both the women’s tour and the men’s tour.”

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