Tennis legend identifies Novak Djokovic quality Carlos Alcaraz does not yet possess

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz at the net
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz speak at the net at the 2023 ATP Finals

Tennis great Todd Woodbridge has assessed that Carlos Alcaraz does not yet possess the ability held by his rival Novak Djokovic to “dictate every term on the court.”

The 16-time men’s doubles Grand Slam champion asserted that it is not possible to have a game as “fundamentally complete” as Alcaraz’s and “keep that together at 20.”

Alcaraz defeated world No 4 Daniil Medvedev 7-6(5), 6-1 in the final of the 2024 Indian Wells Open on Sunday to defend his title at the ATP Masters 1000 event in California.

The victory saw Alcaraz end an eight-month title drought as he had not won a tournament since claiming his second major with a stunning five-set victory over Djokovic in the 2023 Wimbledon final in July.

The world No 2 is just the second player after his great Spanish countryman Rafael Nadal to win five or more Masters 1000 titles before the age of 21.

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Alcaraz will next compete at the Miami Open, where he is the top seed following the withdrawal of world No 1 Djokovic, as he looks to complete a ‘Sunshine Double.’ ATP main draw action at the Masters event in Miami will kick off on Wednesday.

Speaking for the Australian Open’s March edition of Five in Focus, Woodbridge called for patience with Alcaraz, who had gone through a challenging spell prior to Indian Wells.

“Give him space. Let him breathe. This is a period of absolutely coming to terms with stardom, money, fame, pressure, time management. And what’s so important is that team that’s around him. I think they’re a really good team,” the former doubles world No 1 said.

“He’s young; he doesn’t have that ability of Novak, yet, to dictate every term on the court. He’s got sheer brilliance and exuberance and youth and athleticism and shot-making, but that’s still coming together.

“You cannot have a game that’s as fundamentally complete as his and keep that together at 20. It needs time to keep maturing and building and getting that consistency.

“Let’s not forget, opponents have now watched 50 matches of him online. They’re now getting a grip on what to expect when they play him. And how they’re going to play him, not how he’s going to play them. What he’s doing was extraordinary, to win two majors. He’s only 20!”

Woodbridge, who also won six major titles in mixed doubles and reached world No 19 in singles, also discussed the progress of his compatriot Alex de Minaur.

“Because of his attitude and his work ethic, he’s built this aura about himself, and it’s continuing to grow,” the Australian said.

“When you’re playing Demon, you know that you have to be at your very best, both physically and mentally, and if you’re any way under, you just don’t see a way to get a victory.

“You can also see some technique changes in his serve, so he’s altering that piece by piece, and he needs to, and he knows that. He knows he’s got to get more shape on the forehand, and that’s happening.

“Everyone said, ‘oh he’s only a little fella’. Well he’s not little, by any means, when you stand next to him. But he’s now starting to build bigger legs and he’s getting a heavier game because of that.

“It looks like he’s put on muscle, and that’s helping him enormously with his weight of shot. He’s not getting beat up as badly by some of the bigger hitters, as what he used to. He’s becoming like a David Ferrer of his peer group.”

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