Carlos Alcaraz has not forgotten what happened a few months ago in the US Open semi-finals. In that match, facing Daniil Medvedev at the last Grand Slam of the season, the Spaniard suffered from a “mental block” at the end of the first-set tiebreak that would continue through almost all of the second set. As a result, he lost in four sets and left with a bittersweet taste in his mouth.
After Wednesday’s 7-5, 6-2 win over Andrey Rublev, Alcaraz will Friday square off against Medvedev for the first time since that evening, and he will do so in what promises to be a high-octane encounter; the No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings needs to win to have a chance of reaching the last four at the Nitto ATP Finals.
“We’re going to try and use the US Open match as an example,” explained Alcaraz, whose Lexus ATP Head2Head with Medvedev is tied at 2-2. “I was mentally in the wrong place for a long time. That cannot happen against him. I will have to approach it differently. I know how he will play, so we’ll look at my strategy before the match.
“Medvedev is one of the best players in the world,” declared the 20-year-old Spaniard. “You have to play very well tactically, be patient and aggressive at the same time. It’s very difficult to beat him. You have to wait for the opportunity, but run and be calm, and get five or six shots in per point until the chance comes, while being aware that often it won’t.”
Alcaraz is heading into his final round-robin clash with Medvedev in a position he was not expecting two days ago, when he lost to Alexander Zverev in his opener at the Pala Alpitour.
“After the first match, I was feeling really bad,” said the Murcia native. “I didn’t know where my game was. I thought I couldn’t win any matches at this tournament feeling the way I did,” he admitted. “After yesterday’s practice session, and after today’s match, I’ve changed the way I feel and the way I will approach the coming days. Now I do have a chance to reach the semi-finals, and to have a good tournament here.”
After the defeat at the hands of Zverev, Alcaraz and his team established a plan to rediscover the player’s ‘A’ game. First, in Tuesday’s practice session, coach Juan Carlos Ferrero asked him to be aggressive, to forget the fear of failure that was hampering his shots. The Valencian former World No. 1 also spoke to his understudy before his victory against Andrey Rublev — and it seems his message had the desired effect.
“At the end of the day, compared to the first match, I’ve stopped thinking about winning or losing. Instead I’m focussing on playing good tennis and enjoying myself,” explained the two-time Grand Slam champion. “That’s what we spoke about with Juan Carlos: It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, I just have to play at the level I’ve been playing this year, and enjoy myself on court. That is the key to my tennis, although in recent months it’s been pretty hard for me.”
Regardless of what happens tonight in the match between Medvedev and Zverev, come Friday Alcaraz will still have a chance of claiming a spot in the semi-finals at the season’s grand finale — and he is looking increasingly capable of doing so.