Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas spent an hour charming a six-rows-deep crowd during their 2023 Miami Open practice session. Below are some observations on tactics and overall atmosphere.
Generally, Alcaraz sported a mood that was light and jovial. He smiled, engaged the crowd and applauded good shots from Tsitsipas. The Greek star was more neutral. He didn’t really interact with the crowd but wasn’t grumpy, either– he was focused. His father paced and collected balls while Mark Philippoussis gave his thoughts. The players were very cordial with each other. They warmed up, took serves and returns in each court, then Stefanos spun the racquet for match play.
My first funny observation was that neither player made good line calls. Alcaraz hit a serve long, which Tsitsipas did not call, opting to play the point instead. Carlitos ended up losing the point over confusion about the no-call. Later Carlos played a Tsitsipas ball from the baseline that was clearly out. Stars… they’re just like us.
Alcaraz and Tsitsipas: Serving and Returning
Despite a shoulder injury for Tsitsipas (and he did grimace once or twice), his forehand return seems unaffected. Therefore, Alcaraz (and any opponent) should avoid serving to the Tsitsipas forehand particularly in the deuce court. He cracked a few for winners in this practice session and a dozen more were scenarios where Stefanos used his forehand return to set up and control the point.
The Tsitsipas backhand? Not so much. He’s still making the adjustment in surface from Indian Wells to Miami. An Alcaraz serve to a Tsitsipas backhand jam was especially effective.
As for Alcaraz, his backhand return is rock-solid. It’s flat, powerful and consistent. In addition, he typically returns a serve to his backhand cross court. And what Tsitsipas does not want is to engage in a backhand-to-backhand rally with Alcaraz. Stefanos found better luck to the Alcaraz forehand jam location.
Alcaraz and Tsitsipas: Rallying
What I enjoyed about this practice session was that both players appeared to be giving 75-80 percent of full capacity. Therefore, the rallies were a bit longer and made for some highly entertaining exchanges.
Both men are extraordinary all-court players with every shot in the quiver. Yes, the Tsitsipas slice is a work in progress, but even a messy slice can be surprisingly effective if it’s hit with depth.
We know Alcaraz is the master of the drop shot, but he only pulled that out twice during this session. Both players lobbed for winners, much to the delight of the fans.
Final take: If these two were to meet anytime soon, Tsitsipas must come forward and use his wingspan and volley skills. Beat Carlitos to the net. Otherwise a healthy and ebullient Alcaraz will take advantage of the not-fully-fit Tsitsipas.