The most impressive aspect of Carlos Alcaraz’s very mature, very complete assortment of tennis weapons is the #INNERGAME. Alcaraz is mentally tough and fundamentally fearless. He doesn’t allow one bad point or game to hijack his focus. He has the short memory great athletes need, and it’s very rare to see a 19-year-old demonstrate this necessary quality so consistently.
Yet, let’s not limit the inner game of tennis to mental toughness and composure. Yes, that’s what separates Alcaraz from all his similarly-aged peers, and also from two mentally struggling players a few years older than the Spaniard, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. However, the inner game also refers to the broader reality of mind-body dualism.
A strong and well-ordered mental game also means that the mind gets out of the body’s way and allows physical attributes — evident skills — to fully manifest themselves and become actualized to the greatest possible extent.
Carlos Alcaraz is more than just a poised performer who achieves clarity under pressure. He also has already shown he can execute patterns and combinations of play. He lines up shots in sequences and layers which break down opponents, as we saw against Zverev in Sunday’s Madrid final. He has a game plan from Juan Carlos Ferrero, but he knows how to implement it. He knows where he has to be and what he has to do, and he pulls it off with the calm awareness of someone several years older.
Not many 19-year-olds have their game — and their tactics — so clearly mapped out.
Alcaraz is a man in command of his many gifts. That’s the key point to make with him. That is the deeper essence of his mastery.
Having many gifts is one thing. Ask Marcelo Rios, or Ajla Tomljanovic, or David Nalbandian, or Nicole Vaidisova, or any of several other brilliantly talented players with mammoth potential whose careers burned out far too soon, with so many unrealized goals.
Knowing HOW to use a large platter of gifts is the real key. Knowing how to deploy a full arsenal of weapons is how one conquers the opponent in high-stakes battles.
Carlos Alcaraz already knows how to do this. Among numerous tennis virtues not commonly found in a 19-year-old, this one stands out the most.