Carlos Alcaraz described as ‘one in a billion’ and ‘a freak’ by a tennis icon

Ewan West
Carlos Alcaraz in action
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates

Tennis legend John McEnroe has labelled Carlos Alcaraz as “one in a billion” and “a freak”, while declaring that “most kids have no business doing that.”

The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion also revealed he would have quit the sport at “16 or 17” if he had trained at a tennis camp like the Nick Bollettieri Academy.

McEnroe, who won 77 titles in both singles and doubles, founded the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in Manhattan, New York City in 2010.

Alcaraz, who only turned 20 in May, has already won two Grand Slam titles and been ranked world No 1 during a remarkable start to his career.

The Spaniard became the youngest player to ever top the ATP Rankings after he overcame Casper Ruud in four sets to win the 2022 US Open.

The world No 2 also edged Novak Djokovic in five sets to triumph at the 2023 Wimbledon Championships in July, ending the great Serbian’s 34-match winning streak at the tournament.

Speaking on an episode of the SmartLess podcast, McEnroe discussed the value of playing other sports and attending college for young tennis players.

“I grew up in Queens. The best thing that ever happened to me was not going to a [Nick] Bollettieri-style camp. I would’ve quit the game at 16 or 17. I love to play other sports,” said the American.

“All studies show, both physically and mentally, it’s healthier for kids to play other sports. This idea that you’ve got to go all in in soccer or basketball is a bunch of, can you say bull***t on this, it’s total BS.

“The truth is, what I base my beliefs on and what this academy is all about, that you should play other sports and you should come to this a little later. Tennis players are peaking later than they ever did.

“I think college is an experience that not only do you get to play as a team potentially if you’re in a sport, but you get to grow up a little bit and also have some fun before you work your way into a profession, and you’ll be more prepared to handle it. So I completely disagree with what they do most often.”

The former world No 1 also highlighted how difficult it is for young prospects to make it as professional players and used the immense talent of Alcaraz to illustrate this.

“For every person you hear that succeeds, there’s a million that don’t. Not everyone’s Carlos Alcaraz, he’s one in a billion. He’s just a freak. He’s an incredible player, but most kids have no business doing that,” assessed the 64-year-old.

Alcaraz has won six titles during an excellent 2023 season, but has endured a more difficult period following his stunning Wimbledon victory – which was the last tournament he won.

Since then, the 20-year-old has reached one final in his next six events and suffered a straight-set defeat to Roman Safiullin in his opening match at last week’s Paris Masters.

READ MORE: Jannik Sinner’s evolution under Darren Cahill – only Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev have more points