Carlos Alcaraz: “I am afraid of disappointing all my people; not to live by what they think”

The place where Carlos Alcaraz visits a group of Spanish journalists who followed him throughout the US Open on a day that had already dawned as the youngest No. 1 in history and with a first Grand Slam title in a holster offers a metaphor that fits the moment. The 19-year-old teenager is on the 36th floor, comfortable and perched high. There are other towers in Manhattan that rise higher, but this privileged view is not bad at all. And it’s next to Times Square, a place where the spotlights turn.

At night, he went out with family members and his team to dine at a Peruvian restaurant that the Michelin guide spoke highly of. In a few hours he will fly to Spain, where he is scheduled to play the Davis Cup. But first, a professional, smiling and cheerful, he considers the commitments that victory imposes and reveals not only about tennis, but also about him.

You don’t seem to be afraid of anything on the track. What does Carlos Alcaraz fear as a tennis player and as a 19-year-old boy from Murcia?

As a normal and ordinary boy, I am afraid of many things. I would say in the dark. I’m not a fan of scary movies either. For spiders probably… For many things. Honestly, as a tennis player, I’m afraid of disappointing him. That’s probably one of my fears: disappointing all my people, not living up to what they think. Despite winning a Grand Slam and now number one, there are probably tournaments to come where they have expectations and the fear is that they won’t be able to live up to them. There are many people who think and express an opinion, but my fear is from those around me, as I have a little fear of things on the track.

What do you think they expect from you?

Well I do not know. There are people who say no, that they don’t care if I lose in the first round, if I lose in the final… But that’s a thought I have inside.

About eight years ago, he posted a picture on social networks and said: «money, rackets, potatoes. I have everything”. Now there are still rackets, yesterday they gave him a curious check (2.6 million euros), we don’t know if he still likes potatoes… Is everything there?

(Laughs) When you’re little, you post shit, right? When you get older, you realize that there are more important things than tennis, money and food. You realize more important things.

He said on the track at the end that he made some tough decisions with your family. What are some of these solutions? What do you feel you have sacrificed to dedicate yourself to the tennis you love so much?

What I’m saying is that I’m young and there are still decisions where I haven’t drawn much that they make for me. In competition you have to make those difficult decisions about things like (relationships with) brands, training issues, coaches… And they are important things, even if it seems like they are not, and they do it better than me.

You’ve achieved your dream of being number one and you’ve already won big. Is there a tournament or situation right now that you’re particularly excited about?

Playing with (Roger) Federer. Right now I think I have little chance of being able to play with it, but it would be something I would like. And I think he beat one of the three in a Grand Slam (Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic). I’ve always said that to be the best, you have to beat the best.

He breaks records for precociousness, he is the youngest number one in history… Are you saying like a few years ago that you are not a pick or are you starting to think that maybe you have something special?

I stand by my answer. Nobody gives you anything, I think. Nobody clicks and you have everything you want, but things have to be worked on, things have to be taken. And I believe that what I achieved, what I achieved yesterday, a Grand Slam and world number one, is due to the work that I have been doing together with my team for a long time. It wasn’t a bed of roses. You have to suffer and you also had to go through bad times to get to this point. And I believe that I am not the chosen one, nor has anyone said that I will be the best, but that I have worked for it.

In addition to your family and team in your part of the mental work, work with a professional. How much has it helped you?

I have been working with a psychologist since 2019, early 2020. Her name is Isabel Balaguer, she is a very good professional and she helped me. I think she is one of the main reasons why he can be number one in the world today. I have improved a lot thanks to her. It’s a super important job to have a psychologist by your side who works with you, because tennis requires week after week, all year you have to be mentally fresh, you have to know how to withstand pressure, to withstand that everyone’s eyes are on you . It’s super important to know how to deal with it, and I think that without a psychologist, without someone helping you in that aspect, it’s not impossible, but it’s much more complicated.

What does it tell you, what tools does it give you?

We talk, he gives me advice, he gives me tools to deal with things on the track. Off the track, he gives me advice on how to deal with moments that can be a bit overwhelming.

How does that mental work help you in situations like the semi-final (when you overcame a match point against Yannick Sinner), what goes through your head?

I faced it thinking I had to move on to it. I had a match point so far, I was playing well, I was feeling good and it wasn’t time to go down, but to keep going there, to keep showing my good game, that I was feeling pretty, pretty good. Yes, it’s true that I thought, “please don’t let this get away from you, I know it’s going to hurt.” But the fifth set came and I did it. At least I feel like if I had lost the match I would have walked away feeling “I did it, I left it all, I had a lot of opportunities, it couldn’t be and it will be”. That was my thought.

Has he incorporated new habits or is he sticking to the ones you had? What do you always do before and during matches?

The ones I had, I strengthened, made them better, each time I embedded them as more natural in me. Before games, it’s not like I have a clear routine. Obviously I have a warm up that I always do the same thing, basically I always try to go to the same place with my team. But I don’t say well: five minutes with me before the game, headphones, stuff like that… If I feel like listening to music, I listen to music; If not, I don’t listen to music. I go with how I feel at the moment. Yes, it’s true that in the game the theme of going to the towel, the theme of getting four balls, throwing five times, the bottles always drink one first then another, the snack is always first on the bar after the banana.. These are things that come to mind and are a bit of an obsession.

When asked if he was proud to be from El Palmar, he expanded and said he was proud to be from Murcia and also to be Spanish. He is 19 years old. You can vote now. Are you interested in politics? Do you have a political conscience?

No, I do not have. The truth is, politics is something I don’t pay much attention to. You get a lot of news, a lot of politics, and I’m more or less in the know, but really very little. When the time comes I will see if I vote or not. It’s something I don’t pay much attention to right now, to be honest. But I am proud to be from Murcia and to be Spanish, and I say it with great pride.

What activity do you like to do with friends? What’s a day in your life like outside of tennis?

Now, when the weather was nice, I loved going to the beach with them, but when it’s winter, it’s quiet. I am a very simple boy who enjoys being with five or six friends, sitting on a bench, in a car, in a house, talking quietly, having fun, laughing, telling jokes. This makes me happy.

Nadal won’t want Djokovic to win more because it takes him out of his all-time record. You only have one, but you already have a record. Would you like Nadal to stay there to be closer?

No, no, no, no way, no way. I will always be proud of Rafa winning a Grand Slam. And obviously, if I unfortunately lose in a Grand Slam, know that I’ll be rooting for him to win. I will always be with a Spaniard and support a Spaniard. Honestly, I won one, I don’t feel any closer. For now, I will think about the second and try to achieve it, which very few people have managed. That’s my goal for now.

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