In his first match of the grass season, Carlos Alcaraz displayed a bold and gracious act of sportsmanship that has gone all but unnoticed.
Due to a last-minute withdrawal at the Cinch Championships, Alcaraz was facing an unexpected first-round opponent: Lucky loser Arthur Rinderknech. Fortunately for the Spaniard, Alcaraz had played the Frenchman once before at the U.S. Open in 2021. Alcaraz won that match in four sets. So at least he knew that Rinderknech is a tall player with a big serve who likes to come into the net.
This Queen’s Club match quickly became complicated for Alcaraz. Playing on Centre Court in front of a packed house, Alcaraz dropped the first set 6-4. After catching up to the speed of Rinderknech’s serve, he eked out the second set 7-5.
In the third set, Rinderknech broke Alcaraz to take a 2-0 lead. Carlitos was in trouble. With just a 4-2 lifetime record on grass, the Spanish phenom badly needs matches heading into Wimbledon. An early exit at Queen’s Club would put a major dent in the plans to prepare for one of the sport’s most sacred prizes.
That’s why what Alcaraz did next was so remarkable.
With a 2-0 lead in the 3rd set and serving at 30-30, Rinderknech hit a beauty of a first serve that landed squarely on the outside-back corner of the service box. After a beat, the ball was called out.
Alcaraz read it right and returned the serve cross-court, but Arthur was approaching and might have made a volley to the open court– had the lines person not called the serve out.
Chair umpire Mohammed Lelani turned off his mic but can be heard saying “it was very close.” As Rinderknech looked at Alcaraz, the Spaniard told him to challenge.
In fact, he said it twice “Challenge. Challenge.” Rinderknech did, and Hawkeye revealed the ball indeed hit squarely on the line.
Let’s pause here and think about this. Alcaraz put the match, this vaunted Queen’s Club tournament and his entire plans to prep for Wimbledon on the line– in the name of good sportsmanship.
As it played out, Rinderknech was given first serve but lost the ensuing point as Alcaraz made a great return. The Spaniard ended up breaking in that game then escaping with a match win in a 3rd set tiebreak.
Because of some other interesting moments and sensational points in this match, Alcaraz’s act of class and fair play at Queen’s Club was barely noticed at all. No mention of it in most game stories, and a lonely tweet from a French fan acknowledged the gracious act on social media.
But it certainly bears remembering what the 20-year-old sensation put on the line in that moment.