The transformation from Monday to Friday has been spectacular. Carlos Alcaraz has gone from being ‘mentally exhausted’ after his loss to Alexander Zverev, to reaching the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals by consecutively sinking Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev. The Spaniard will now clash with Novak Djokovic on Saturday in the semi-finals after a turnaround that means he can aspire to go all the way at Turin’s Pala Alpitour.
So, what exactly happened?
“I spoke to Juan Carlos [Ferrero] after the first match,” admitted Alcaraz. “Obviously, something was up. In the last tournaments, the people closest to me, and even those that don’t know me so well, could see that I didn’t have the same attitude as at the start of the season. It’s not a question of being tired or not, it’s about enjoying myself.
“Juan Carlos opened my eyes. This is the last tournament of the year and I have to give everything I have. We’re at the [Nitto] ATP Finals. We also spoke about the level and what I had to do. Once again, I realised that my game depends on whether or not I enjoy myself, whether or not I smile. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing for me. Obviously, the joy and the smile have returned to my game and I think that was reflected in the matches.”
On Saturday, the two-time Grand Slam champion will have to enjoy himself, smile, and possibly do even more when he squares off against Djokovic for the fourth time this season (2-2 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series). In 2023, the Serbian won their first battle in the semi-finals of Roland Garros, Alcaraz returned the favour in the Wimbledon final, and Djokovic reaped his revenge in the decider at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
“Hopefully it’ll be a repeat of what happened in the Wimbledon final,” said the Spaniard. “I’m going to try and find my A-game. We’ll see what I did well in order to repeat it tomorrow. It’ll be a very mental game, and I want to start preparing tonight.
“I hope that Novak plays at a great level, his A-game. We’re in the semis of the ATP Finals, a tournament he has won six times. He knows what it is to play in these rounds at events like this. I think that he’ll use that experience tomorrow and he’ll play his best tennis. He’ll try to pressure me a lot in the match, basically, he’ll be true to his style. So we’re going to have to be ready for that.”
Alcaraz has gone from saying that he could not see himself winning a single match in the tournament after losing to Zverev on day one, to declaring, having taken out Rublev, he believed he could go all the way at the season’s grand finale.
“After my level the last couple of days, your mind starts thinking things,” said Alcaraz. “Right now, I think if I continue at this level, I’ll have a chance of winning the tournament.”