Alcaraz lifts lid on ‘most difficult’ period of career after US Open

Carlos Alcaraz has revealed that the toughest period of his career came after he won last year’s US Open, becoming the first teenage Grand Slam champion in 17 years and the youngest-ever ATP world No 1 as a result. The 19-year-old explained how his triumph in Flushing Meadows led to a “bad” spell before suffering back-to-back injuries which saw him sidelined for almost four months.

Alcaraz had long been tipped as the next big thing in tennis and was quick to fulfil expectations at the US Open in September, capping off his breakthrough 2022 season by winning his first Major and ascending to No 1 in the world. With the victory, he became the first teenager to hoist a Slam trophy since Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest man ever to reach the top of the rankings.

But the 19-year-old has now confessed that the win led to the toughest period of his career so far as he dealt with the “stress” of such a monumental achievement. In a new interview with Vogue magazine, the current world No 2 was asked about the most difficult moment he had experienced so far and he responded had a bad period after I won the US Open.”

While it seemed surprising, the seven-time title winner explained how the occasion troubled him after celebrating with his team and family at a Peruvian restaurant in New York on the night of his victory. “That sounds like I’m making it up, but… well, I enjoyed that moment a lot,” he continued.

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“But the truth is, when I had to go back into competition, there was a point when I went: ‘Stress!’ You know?” Sharing his theory over why his Grand Slam glory sparked a tough spell, Alcaraz added: “Maybe I hadn’t fully taken on board what had happened. Or maybe, instinctively, I lost a little hope.

“I think what happened was, when I saw that I’d achieved what I’d dreamed of since I was a little kid, unconsciously that aspiration dimmed a bit. And that was hard. Because no one was enjoying it – I wasn’t, on the court; Juanki [Juan Carlos Ferrero, his coach] wasn’t, seeing me so shut down and lacking in spark. I thought, Where do I go now?”

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Things ended up going from bad to worse for Alcaraz, who tore an ab muscle during his quarter-final match against Holger Rune at the Paris Masters in early November and was forced to shut down his 2022 season early, pulling out of the ATP Finals and Davis Cup. Set to return at the Australian Open in January, he suffered a fresh injury in pre-season training and was forced to pull out.

But Alcaraz made a winning return to competition in Buenos Aires last week, where he won the first title of his comeback at the Argentina Open. The world No 2 is now the top seed at this week’s Rio Open, as he seeks to defend the title he won there last year which made him the youngest ever ATP 500 champion.

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