Carlos Alcaraz is already behind. At 20 years old, he would need to average roughly a Grand Slam and a half per year well into his 30s to do better than the great Novak Djokovic– who by the way, is still going.
The odds might be against him, but Carlitos has alien athletic ability as well as time on his side. Here’s a look at what Alcaraz would need to do to have a hope of ending his career better than Djokovic.
Improve the First Serve
Alcaraz harbors a huge statistical disparity in his service game that is hiding in plain sight. Like his fellow countryman, the iconic Rafael Nadal, Alcaraz is among the leaders on tour in 2nd serve points won. In fact, he’s currently #3 behind Djokovic and Jannik Sinner. Excelling in this stat category usually means you have a wicked kick serve (Alcaraz does) and you’re a hustler, which he is.
Ok no problem there.
Unfortunately for Alcaraz, he’s way the freak down on the list of 1st serve points won. Currently #41 in fact. The disparity in those two stat categories is not in line with what the Big 3 have done over the course of their storied careers. Roger Federer has always excelled in 1st serve points won, as he is considered the best spot-server in history. Both Djokovic and Nadal worked on their first serves and tweaked like dogs with bones. Their first serve speeds, placements and winning percentages climbed. For Novak, he improved his first serve to a point that he has become tops in the world in many of the major serving stat categories.
So Carlitos needs to figure it out. Ask the question, “what kind of first server am I?” If I can’t have elite power, can I become a master of placement? Can I vary up my paces and spins like a change-up pitcher in baseball? Work on that.
Alcaraz will need to take notes on exactly what the Big 3 did to manage their schedules such that their bodies didn’t force them to retire early. The Spanish sensation shocked the tennis world when he showed up in 2022 looking buff after an intense offseason training regimen.
But Novak Djokovic is not particularly “buff.” Neither was Federer. Study the greats. What did they eat? How did they train?
And then there’s the schedule. Alcaraz is correct to demand high-dollar appearance fees at tournaments if he has any hope of catching Djokovic. There’s a cost-benefit analysis that has to be conducted at any tournament that is not a major.
One thing a tennis player cannot generally do is “try to play shorter points.” It’s the kiss of death. If you’re trying to end a point early, studies have shown that only leads to more errors. As Federer once said, “I don’t like to play the longer points, but you have to be willing to play the longer points.”
But the problem: Alcaraz needs to play (and win) shorter points so that it doesn’t tax his body too much.
In fact, he’s already struggling with plantar fasciitis in his foot. That’s a hallmark overuse injury. The grinding needs to be kept to an absolute minimum for Carlitos.
So if you can’t “try” to play shorter points, but you “must” play shorter points– how does that work? The answer: play patterns. Alcaraz must hire a top-notch scout for each and every opponent he faces– we’re talking even the Fabian Marozsans of the world. Find the patterns that beat those opponents and run them like a Swiss watch.
Final Alcaraz Strategy: Wait
Djokovic is unquestionably the greatest tennis player ever. But time will eventually catch him. Once the GOAT is retired, that will free up Alcaraz to collect Grand Slams in the sweet spot of his career. So the Spaniard should be patient and not get too anxious about trophies in the short term.
The Alcaraz Djokovic H2H is tied at 2 apiece as of this writing. Each of the matches could have gone either way. They’re that close right now. Alcaraz should relax, enjoy and savor every match he might have remaining with the GOAT. And learn, learn, learn.