From Clay to Grass: Carlos Alcaraz’s Astonishing Rise

A transformation from clay prodigy to grass court maestro

As Carlos Alcaraz honed his youthful skills on Spanish red clay, he could never have imagined he would be hailed the king of grass courts so soon in his career.

Yet that title is within his grasp over the next few days, as he looks to defend the Wimbledon title he won remarkably a year ago.

When Alcaraz stepped onto the grass at the Queen’s Club for the first time in the summer of 2023, his expectations were low.

A defeat against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open meant he headed to London looking to rebuild some confidence on a surface that he was unfamiliar with.

Alcaraz openly admitted he felt unsteady in his first practice session at The Queen’s Club and after a challenging three-set win against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in his opening match, what came next is one of the more amazing tales of recent tennis history.

He went on to win the title at Queen’s and then, remarkably, beat Novak Djokovic in an epic Wimbledon final that secured him a first title at the All England Club and cemented his status as the new superstar of the men’s game.

Roll the clock forward 12 months and the 21-year-old Spaniard is shining at Wimbledon once again, with his passage to the last four of this year’s Championships including some challenging matches that confirmed he has mastered the challenge of playing on a low-bouncing grass court.

“It was at Queen’s last year that I realised I can get my 100% and my top level on grass,” recalled Alcaraz. “It was not in the first round, not in the second round, but maybe in the semifinal and final that I remember to play great tennis.

“Then I realised what kind of tennis I have to play here on grass to make good results and be a good player on this surface.

“This year, I came back to grass this year with different expectations. You have to come to Wimbledon with the belief that you can do well. So far it has worked out for me.”

Alcaraz’s remarkable record when Grand Slam matches go to a fifth set adds to his aura, as he has won 12 of the 13 deciding sets he has played and suggests that gives him an edge over his rivals.

“In my head, I’m thinking that I’m good in the fifth set and my opponent thinks this as well,” he stated. “They have to believe that I going to win, I going to play my best tennis when we get to that moment in a match.

“In every match that I’ve played fifth sets, I played really close to or my best tennis. So I realised that I’m good at it and I believe that I’m going to win. I think that’s a good point for me.”

If his Wimbledon semi-final against Daniil Medvedev goes into a deciding set on Friday, Alcaraz’s impressive record will be tested to the full.

Medvedev beat Alcaraz in last year’s US Open semi-finals and that was something of a surprise after the Spaniard convincingly won their semi-final meeting at Wimbledon last July.

Alcaraz has won his last two matches against Medvedev and heads into their Centre Court rematch on Friday as the firm favourite, but he knows this will be a huge test after his Russian rival beat world No.1 Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Medvedev paid Alcaraz the ultimate tribute last year when he suggested his young rival was capable of hitting winners other players can only dream about, with that comment bringing a smile to the face of the Spanish star.

“Well, I’m glad that my opponents are thinking like this,” he added. “It means they have to be really focused on every shot

“It doesn’t matter if they are in an attack position or defending as they will be thinking I will always get it back or that I might be able to hit an unbelievable shot, to hit the winner.

“For me, it’s great that they are thinking about it, but I know how tough a match this will be against Daniil.

“The most special thing about him is he can reach every ball. He is like a wall. Every ball bounces back. I feel like I can hit an unbelievable shot, the ball is going to bounce back. So it is going to be a very tough match against Daniil.”

Alcaraz vs Medvedev has the potential to be a Centre Court classic, with Novak Djokovic likely to be lying in wait for the victory in Sunday’s Men’s Single’s Final.