You can only hope that you are witnessing history right now. You obviously can’t know until the perspective of time kicks in. You tell yourself this moment or that moment feels unlike others you think you see. But does it? is that what you’re telling yourself? You can tell yourself anything enough to finally convince yourself that you feel it.
Carlos Alcaraz definitely wins the US Open feels as if a player on the ATP Tour had walked the steps that lead to where only Nadal, Federer or Djokovic live. Tennis fans have been asking for this for a while, stunning as the dominance and brilliance of these three was. Occasionally there were usurpers, but it didn’t feel like it. At least that’s what we’re saying now.
Which is terribly unfair to any player or Alcaraz. What Federer, Nadal and Djokovic offered for a decade and a half were things we hadn’t seen before. Sure, there have been great champions before and Pete Sampras left the scene just a year before Federer won his first Wimbledon. But for most, Sampras just won. There was no flash or any signature above it. He was just really good at a lot of things, things that we’d seen other players really good at, just not as comprehensively. We’d seen big servers, or great neters, or solid off-the-ground players, and Sampras was all of those things, just not in a notable way. It was the solidity of everyone that made him great.
The three pillars that ruled the game were spectacular in one way or another. Federer’s artistry, Nadal’s defiance of hitting winners from the most defensive positions, Djokovic’s metronomic consistency. These things went beyond our thoughts before showing us it was possible.
As such, asking a player, let alone one as young as 19, to even advertise that they can do things we previously didn’t think possible is the most impossible standard. Other players took brief breaths, but holding that standard for more than a breath was too much. As it rightly should be. That makes these three these three.
And perhaps Alcaraz won’t stay there. But it sure feels like something changed in men’s tennis over this tournament. Sure, Nadal’s body still hasn’t returned to previous strength, and it may never again. Djokovic couldn’t overcome his brain droppings. We won’t know for sure until Alcaraz stares down one or both in a grand slam, and maybe by the time he gets a chance, time and mileage will have done most of the job anyway.
Still, any fan can’t help but be giddy at the idea that the fantasy of putting Nadal’s legs and determination on Federer’s vision and feel has actually come to life. Because that’s what Alcaraz flashes a whole lot:
And Alcaraz is ahead of where those three were when they were teenagers. Nadal claimed his first French Open at 19, but at that time was still seen as a clay court specialist who needed to greatly adjust his serve and his game to deal with surfaces that didn’t give him so much time or accentuate his spin. Federer was still harnessing all the things that made him Federer and didn’t claim his first Grand Slam until just before his 22nd birthday. Djokovic was just the yappy kid with the big potential who did funny impressions of his cohorts.
Alcaraz claimed a Grand Slam on what is not his favorite surface, yet. His serve could still use some more boom, but his net game shows otherworldly feel while his shotmaking from the baseline is, quite simply, antisocial. He has far more pieces in place.
While the generation before him couldn’t bring themselves to the level of the three on top, it already feels like Alcaraz’s contemporaries are eager to chase him, such as Tiafoe, Sinner, Ruud. They’re going to have to. We don’t know for sure yet, but it feels like, to regularly beat him, you’ll have to join him at the top of Olympus.
That’s where the perfect combination of Federer’s ice and Nadal’s fire would have to call home.
And on the lighter side of yesterday, literally, here’s how you don’t tailgate:
I can’t imagine standing on a sea of asphalt on a late summer day in South Florida is all that pleasant anyway. Wasn’t this one of those “Mayhem” ads?
We’ll cap it off with Real Madrid’s Fede Valverde pulling the “fuck you I’m scoring” lever that we didn’t know was available to him. Most of us can’t even run this far: