'The most important thing is health' – Nadal reacts to Alcaraz's positive Covid-19 test

Rafa Nadal has said the Davis Cup takes a ‘back seat’ following Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz’ positive coronavirus test.

Just 24 hours before their opener against Ecuador in Madrid, Alcaraz returned a positive test, throwing Spanish preparations into disarray.

Reacting to the news, Nadal, a five-time Davis Cup winner with his country took to social media to highlight that the players’ health is more important than the competition.

Davis Cup

Carlos Alcaraz: ‘It has been an incredible year, full of new experiences’ – Players’ Voice


“Much encouragement to the entire Spanish team after the news we received today,” he wrote on Twitter. “When something like this happens, the competition takes a backseat.

“The most important thing is health and I hope there are no more cases. A hug to all!”

The 18-year-old, who faces a period of isolation following the positive test, took to Instagram to explain the news followed an official statement from the tournament organisers.

“I’m sad about the way that I miss such an important and super special tournament for me as the Davis Cup,” he wrote.

“I was very excited to be able to play and represent my country here in Madrid in front of my people, but sometimes things don’t happen as one wants and you have to overcome.

“At the moment I am very well, with very mild symptoms and we will see how it progresses.

“A lot of encouragement to the whole team I will be cheering and watching on television. Thank you for all your support.”

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Alcaraz: ‘It Is The Best Way To Finish The Year’

After clinching the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals title on Saturday, Carlos Alcaraz was in a reflective mood as he looked back on his successful 2021 season with a smile on his face.

The 18-year-old overcame Sebastian Korda in the final at the 21-and-under event in Milan to round off a year that has seen him rise from No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings to a current career-high No. 32.

“I feeling amazing,” Alcaraz said after triumphing 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 in the championship match. “It feels good to end the year in the best way possible. Playing great matches against great players. It is the best way to finish the year.”

Under the guidance of coach and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz has made headlines in 2021. The Spaniard captured his first tour-level title in Umag in July and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals at the US Open.

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Alcaraz Soars To Milan Title

While Alcaraz, who was the top seed in Milan, views those moments as high points, he believes other experiences he has had on Tour this season provided the crucial building blocks for his success.

“It has been a really good season for me,” Alcaraz said. “I am really happy about the moments I have experienced. Beating Stefanos [Tsitsipas] at the US Open, reaching the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam and winning my first ATP [Tour title].

“But I think this would not have been possible without the experience I gained in Madrid, playing against Rafa [Nadal]. In Acapulco, playing against [Alexander] Zverev. There are a lot of tournament matches that gave me a lot of experience to make me more mature so soon.”

Alcaraz dropped just one set en route to the title in Milan as he played aggressively in the big points to defeat stiff opposition at the Allianz Cloud. The 18-year-old admitted that it is an area of his game he has been focused on and will look to continue to develop.

“It is something I am working on,” Alcaraz said. “Juan Carlos told me that in the tough moments you have to play aggressively and you have to go for it and that is what I do. I am working on that to be calm in the tough moments, that is the key to winning the tough points. You have to go for it.”

Did You Know?
Alcaraz is the youngest player to earn 32 tour-level victories in a year since Andrei Medvedev, 18, went 32-11 in 1992.

Alcaraz Soars To Milan Crown

Carlos Alcaraz finished his breakthrough 2021 season in style Saturday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, downing Sebastian Korda 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 to win the title in Milan.

The 18-year-old is the first Spaniard to triumph at the 21-and-under event and is the youngest player to earn 32 tour-level victories in a year since Andrei Medvedev, 18, went 32-11 in 1992.

In a high-quality match, Alcaraz hammered his groundstrokes with his usual deadly precision, stepping inside the baseline to target Korda’s backhand as he pinned the American back. He broke twice and fired 15 winners to secure victory after 84 minutes.

“It is amazing,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “To be able to win this tournament means a lot to me. I am so excited right now and emotional. I was very, very nervous at the start. I had to be calm to save the break points. I know Korda is serving very well, so I had to play my best in those moments.”

The top seed was in ruthless form at the Allianz Cloud throughout the tournament, dropping just one set en route to the title as he dispatched Holger Rune, Brandon Nakashima and Juan Manuel Cerundolo in the round-robin stage, before cruising past Argentine Sebastian Baez in the last four.

“It went 0/30 on my serve [when serving for the match],” Alcaraz added. “So I had to be focused in that moment and I had to stay calm. It was really, really tough.”

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Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

After beginning the year at No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Alcaraz has soared to a current career-high No. 32 under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero. In a standout season, the 18-year-old clinched his maiden tour-level title in Umag and upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas as he reached the quarter-finals at the US Open.

Alcaraz also advanced to tour-level semi-finals in Marbella, Winston-Salem and Vienna, where he defeated World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini. He showcased the experience he has gained this season against Korda, remaining focused in front of a lively crowd in Italy to become the fourth Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion, joining Hyeon Chung, Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner.

In a tight first set, Korda quickly found his rhythm, striking his flat groundstrokes with great depth. But the American was unable to convert any of the five break points he had as Alcaraz showed his fighting skills to force a tie-break. From 4/5 in the tie-break, Alcaraz won both points on Korda’s serve as he outmanoeuvred the 21-year-old, before sealing the set with a forehand volley winner.

Alcaraz continued to play aggressively in the second set as he closed the net effectively to further impose himself on Korda. The Spaniard did not face a break point in the second set, sealing it with one of the four aces he hit in the match. Fuelled by momentum, Alcaraz put his foot down in the third set, forcing Korda into mistakes with his depth to secure the title. 

Korda, who also earned a perfect 3-0 round-robin record in Milan, captured his first tour-level title in Parma in May and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in July. The World No. 39 defeated countryman Brandon Nakashima in five sets in the semi-final to become the first American to advance to the championship match at the 21-and-under event.

Alcaraz, Korda Look To Cap Breakout Seasons With Milan Title

Two of the hottest young stars on the ATP Tour will look to cap breakout seasons in the perfect manner when they clash in Saturday’s title match of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Heading into their first ATP Head2Head meeting, other than age, little separates top seed Carlos Alcaraz and second seed Sebastian Korda, who both take unbeaten 4-0 records into the decider.

“The final is going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said after defeating Argentine Sebastian Baez in Fridays’ semi-finals. “Sebastian is playing great tennis and I am really excited to play against him for the first time. It would be amazing to win the title, but I am going to be facing a really good opponent, so we will see.”

How To Watch The Final (9pm CET/3pm ET)

Spain’s Alcaraz is looking to become the second consecutive 18-year-old (Jannik Sinner) to capture the 21-and-under event. Like his rival, 21-year-old Korda is chasing his second title of the season. Alcaraz had just one tour-level win coming into 2021; Korda had just three. Today, both players are chasing the 32nd win of their respective breakout seasons.

Win number 32 would match Alcaraz’s current career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 32, which has him as the highest-ranked player by age since former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was No. 31 more than two decades ago in August 1999.

In earning his 30th win of the season in group play against Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Alcaraz became the youngest player to notch 30 wins in a season since an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal went 30-17 in 2004. If he wins the title, Alcaraz will match Andrei Medvedev, 18, with 32 wins in 1992.

But Alcaraz is sure to not be thinking about milestones. His focus will be singular: beating World No. 39 Korda, who is pumped up for the challenge.

Speaking before Alcaraz had taken the court for the late semi-final, former junior World No. 1 Korda said that he hoped to get the chance to end his season with a showdown against the man with whom he could be about to forge a decade-long rivalry.

“I hope it’s Carlos. I’ve never practised with him, I’ve never played him in a match; it will be really exciting,” Korda said. “Hopefully we can have a lot of battles in the next coming years; he’s playing some incredible tennis, really aggressive player and really strong mentally, so, yeah, it will be a new challenge and I’m really looking forward to it if it happens.”

Note: The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals does not count as an official tour-level title in a player’s record.

Alcaraz Sets Korda Showdown In Milan

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest player competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals this week. But the 18-year-old continued to impress Friday as he cruised into the final in Milan.

The Spaniard went 3-0 in the round-robin stage and produced another ruthless performance, soaring past Argentine Sebastian Baez 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 to advance after 62 minutes in their first tour-level meeting.

“It was a really good match from my side,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “I knew I had to play really well and aggressively. He is playing at a great level and had a great week. I always think in the tough moments I have to be aggressive and have no nerves in that moment. If I lose that point in the tough moments it is because I have gone for it.”

Alcaraz imposed his aggressive heavy-hitting game on the World No. 111 from the outset at the Allianz Cloud. The Spaniard demonstrated great footwork, which allowed him to run around and dictate on his forehand, striking with vast amounts of power to outmanoeuvre Baez.

The World No. 32, who has just dropped one set en route to the championship match, will face second seed Sebastian Korda in the final after the American defeated countryman Brandon Nakashima 4-3(3), 2-4, 1-4, 4-2, 4-2. If Alcaraz wins the title, he will become the youngest player since Andrei Medvedev, 18, to record 32 wins in a season, after the Ukrainian went 32-11 in 1992.

“The final is going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said. “Sebastian is playing great tennis and I am really excited to play against him for the first time. It would be amazing to win the title, but I am going to be facing a really good opponent, so we will see.”

In a strong serving display against Baez, Alcaraz won 32 of 37 of points behind his first delivery and saved all three break points he faced. The Spaniard hit 16 winners and committed just 11 unforced errors to end Baez’s hopes.

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Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

Earlier this year, under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz made headlines when he upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals at the US Open. The Spaniard also captured his maiden tour-level title in Umag and recorded Top 10 wins against Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner in recent weeks.

Baez had never played a tour-level hard-court match before this week. But the 20-year-old, who won five ATP Challenger Tour titles on clay this year, overcame home favourite Lorenzo Musetti and Hugo Gaston to reach the semi-finals at the 21-and-under event.

Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

Juan Carlos Ferrero is in no rush with Carlos Alcaraz. In the run up to the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the innovative tournament in Milan that brings together the Tour’s best 21-and-under players, everything seems to be going in slow motion. The Spaniard is flying through the ranks of professional tennis with a career built on the foundations of the calm instilled in him by his coach, who is determined to build a rock-solid player.

At the players’ hotel, just 500 meters from the Allianz Cloud stadium that is hosting the competition, the former World No. 1 spoke to ATPTour.com about one of the most exciting prospects on Tour.

Do you view Milan as the reward for a great season?
Of course. He has his sights set very high and he also had an eye on the other tournament [the Nitto ATP Finals], because he was No. 20 in the [FedEx ATP] Race [To Turin]. Without a doubt, he was very excited to come here and it was one of the goals at the start of the season. We haven’t spoken much about it because you pay more attention to the normal ranking. Since he qualified, he has been looking forward to playing the tournament even though there are no points available. Because of the characteristics of the tournament: the singles court, the eight best players.

Also, the standard here is very high, there are players that are in the Top 30 like him and [Sebastian] Korda, [Holger Vitus Nodskov] Rune, who just won several Challenger events, is here, [Sebastian] Baez, who has also won quite a few tournaments, [Hugo] Gaston is also closing in on the Top 60… The standard is very high here and it’s not a minor tournament by any means. It really is a source of motivation.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Carlos is the highest ranked player, as well as being the youngest, what have you made of his rise?
Carlos’ rise has been very fast this year. I already thought he was precocious at 15 or 16 years old. At that age he beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rio de Janeiro. I told myself that when he turned 18 he could be around the Top 50. 

I think it’s very positive. Of course, we’ve never been in a hurry. We’ve always tried to make him grow and invested a lot in his tennis and paid very little attention to his ranking – always focused on improving his game and as a player, and gaining more experience with how young he is. The ranking came because of the results. We really value it because it’s very difficult to do. Even more so with the situation created by COVID-19, which has meant it was even harder to climb up the rankings.

A few days ago Carlos said: “I’ve exceeded my expectations this year.” Has he exceeded yours?
Ferrero: Yes, one of the expectations we had was to be ranked around No. 50. In terms of that number, he has exceeded expectations. We could also mention that he has played against top players and been able to compete on their level – and even beat them, as was the case with [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and [Matteo] Berrettini, even [Jannik] Sinner, who is another of the most promising young players. It’s true that he has exceeded those expectations and shown that his game peaks at a very high level that we have to try and maintain so that he can play like that continuously.

Carlos will continue to climb. Right now, he’s a bit like Son Goku [from Dragonball Z], when he started to transform and then lost power. It’s a little joke I have with him. But it’s true that those peaks at such a high level are because he’s a very dynamic player who can do a lot of things on court and on any surface. 

Many of his peers call him ‘mature’ for his age. What is maturity?
Ferrero: Recognising what is happening on court, knowing when you are doing things well or badly. Often players obsess over something, and don’t realise what they’re doing wrong. Carlos started to realise increasingly quickly what he was doing wrong, and what he actually has to focus on, above all on a mental level.

Since he was little, he has been an inconsistent player: he would play very well, then he would play very badly. It still happens to him on occasions, but he’s much more stable now. He has placed a lot of importance on working hard on the mental side. It’s something that I’ve always mentioned to him over these three years, that it was very important to progress little by little. He has also upped his work with his psychologist Isabel Balaguer. He knows perfectly well that it is one of the most important things, because in terms of fitness and his tennis, his progress is very fast at the moment. 

I think the most important thing at the moment is to continue growing as a player on a mental level in order to keep getting stronger for situations like those he has been through or the many more he may experience.

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What are you most proud of when you think about Carlos?
He’s very loyal to the people he loves. The people that work with him really recognise that, because of how he is now and not because of who he is becoming. I really value what a great kid he is. From the start I think we connected very well. I really value that it’s a simple relationship and that the daily work between us is easy. Ultimately, so much travel and so much time together requires peaceful relationships. I really value that loyalty and that trust.

Then we get to the question of whether or not he is a hard worker, if he is dedicated or not. I’m a very strict person when it comes to work and he has gradually had to incorporate things that he didn’t have and that I told him were very important. At first, he found it tough but then he understood that in the end it’s a way of life. He gradually learned these things and there is merit in that because that wasn’t the case at the beginning.

What’s the one thing you’ve tried to instill in him the most?
Humility and consistent hard work. I think it’s very important. Then there have been other details. He was a person who, when he was tired, really dropped his level of training and I’ve always been consistent in telling him that you have to work during those times. The importance of intensity on court… There are many small things, but I have highlighted humility and being a hard worker on court. That’s something that he absolutely had to have.

Q: Even well-established players have recognised his progress, how has that influenced Alcaraz?
He absorbs it very well, without added pressure. Since everyone has started saying that he is the new player who could go right to the top, he has tried to stay in a small bubble. Above all, to try and stay on his own path. Carrying the burden of comparisons with a player like Rafa [Nadal] is difficult for such a young boy. 

He is very mentally strong but he still has a lot to learn – we saw it last week [he was in tears against Hugo Gaston in the last 16 of the Rolex Paris Masters]. There are things that he is unable to control. The fact that they compare him with Rafa is difficult but we have always handled it well. Him best of all. He wants to do things his own way and so far, he really is coping very well. We haven’t noticed more or less pressure because of this.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Does it take someone special to maintain that?
 I’d say you have to be very clear about it. We talk about it, not much, but sometimes we’ve talked about it. And we’re very sure of the road he wants to follow. So they compare him with Rafa? Great, that means that people think he has a lot of potential. But he has to be very clear, and other people do too, that he has to stay on his own path. I won’t say that Rafa’s career is unrepeatable, but almost. Carlos has to have his own career and keep looking forward.

You’ve been World No. 1 in the past. Do you remember yourself at his age?

  I think we’re similar in that we are both very emotive on court. That’s positive, because it means you don’t lose your identity or your style of play. If you’re truly good, you’re able to keep your head in difficult moments, tough matches, moments of tension. A player with character will always push forwards. A player who shrinks from those situations will find it difficult to win big tournaments. In that respect, he is very good.

Making comparisons is difficult. Something else about Carlos is he always wants to improve. That’s very important. I’ve spoken to him a lot about wanting to be better every day. You can’t train for the sake of it, that’s a waste of time. You have to do quality training, to know what to train, you have to know what needs improving, where your weaknesses are, which moments you need to improve in, and in which moments you need to read the game. He has been improving in all of those aspects.

At some tournaments we’ve joked around, ‘Now you have to tell me what you’re doing wrong in this match.’ To explain to me exactly what he should have done differently, doing role plays like that. It might not seem like it, but it really helps him a lot.

Is he good at those analyses?
Yes. We tend to talk about what has happened. More than about statistics, or what he should have done. I talk more about mental moments on court than tennis tactics. He is quite open to that and it’s wanting to improve constantly that’s the most important thing.

If we were to speak in one year’s time, what would Juan Carlos Ferrero be happy with?
If Carlos has managed to continue growing naturally and in the way I have in mind, I have a very clear idea of what next year could be. As he progresses, he will turn 19, he’ll be more mature, have more experience on court, and play a lot of quality matches against very good players. If everything continues as I think it may, I think next year will be… interesting.

The Foundations & Secrets Behind Alcaraz's Success

Carlos Alcaraz‘s eye is always on the prize in training sessions. The Spaniard absorbs every moment as if his life depends on it, with his concentration never wavering. As he prepares under the roof of the Allianz Cloud in Milan, where he will bring his spectacular 2021 season to a close, the Murcia native completes his work without missing a single step.

When an instruction comes from former World No. 1 Juan Carlos, Alcaraz executes with the utmost focus. If the exercise is being run by Juanjo Moreno, the physiotherapist and rehab specialist who also helps with fitness coaching, Alcaraz launches his body in compliance with the request. Any message relayed to him by Albert Molina, his agent, is efficiently attended to.

He is a cheerful and affectionate young man, but the smiles disappear when it is time to get to work. It is with this professionalism that the Murcia native is bidding to consolidate himself as the star of his generation, which is under the global spotlight this week at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

The 18-year-old Spaniard is competing in Lombardy as the World No. 32, making him one of the most promising athletes in his sport. With a strong team behind him at the Equelite de Villena Academy, where the work of fitness coach (Alberto Lledo), physiotherapist (Sergio Hernandez) and doctor (Juanjo Lopez), is complemented by that of psychologist (Isabel Balaguer) and the team in Murcia (Alejandro on fitness and Fran on recovery).

While Alcaraz was squaring off against the best young players on Tour, his physio and rehab specialist Juanjo Moreno, who is also responsible for fine-tuning the body of Pablo Carreno Busta, spoke to ATPTour.com about the Spaniard’s daily work.

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Alcaraz has really developed physically in the past year, what work has been put in?
With Carlos, it is one of the goals we set ourselves. When he started at the Academy, both the fitness coach and I thought we needed a change in the muscle structures. We needed to work on his musculoskeletal system to give him more speed, more power in his shots and his movement on court. And we based all that on morphology training. Doing fitness work to achieve those goals without him gaining much muscle mass, Carlos’ genetics plus speed-based training has given him the morphotype he has now.

By having a good preseason and training during the year, because he also has to do that as part of the plan, we have arrived at this result. In tournament weeks, we need him to work on his strength. And we also rely a lot on nutrition, eating well. It has been one of the paradigms we have changed with Carlos. The whole blend of factors like good eating, good goal-oriented training and good rest, which is also essential, is a cocktail that has brought us to this point.

How pleased have you been with the progress?
At first, people were surprised about it. We have seen the transformation gradually, even though it has been over a short space of time. It’s the same with children, if you haven’t seen them for a while, you realise how much they change. I remember that at Roland Garros, when the Nike clothes arrived, he tried on the sleeveless t-shirts and then you could really see the muscle definition in his biceps, triceps and shoulders. For me, Carlos now has the physique we were looking for. This season, we still plan to fine-tune it a little bit more. We’re happy with the work that’s been done. Right now, Carlos has reached almost his maximum potential and in terms of body type or muscle definition, let’s say he’s at 90% of his potential. There is always room for improvement and we will improve.

How do you think this change improves his tennis?
When you work on your body, you feel more confident in yourself. You also feel more powerful in a way. It’s not only your appearance that gives you that feeling of power. It’s the internal feelings you have. When I talk with Carlos, I always tell him that the first repetitions don’t count, the last two are the ones that count. The last series or repetitions are the ones where we really get the potential out of him.

If you take that onto a tennis court, it’s the tough games, those final moments when you have to close a match out… there is also a lot of training philosophy in all of that. When you’re used to the effort in training, because we demand it and it’s an act of responsibility on his part, that’s something that transfers to the court.

How would you describe his capacity for hard work?
It’s been a process with Carlos. I remember how he was at first, and it’s normal when something is new to you. But you have to learn to work hard in training. At first, it’s harder, but together with the fitness coaching team at the academy, he was very committed to that philosophy. Juan Carlos is all about pure hard work. We back Juan Carlos up. The work group is very much about that dedication and hard work, always doing more… Ultimately, that rubs off on Carlos.

There’s a great expression that says that when the good part of a team works hard, the mediocre part has to work hard too. In other words, you tend to copy their attitude. Since Carlos started working at the Academy that working methodology has rubbed off on him. Although at first there was a little resistance, he has gradually learned and he is enjoying it. It’s difficult to see the hard work, but you can see the results. It’s hard taking care of nutrition, resting… all the little details. All of that leads you to a result. If that weren’t the case, it would get more difficult. It’s been a daily learning process in a context that has also fed into that journey.

Is he a physical powerhouse?
The first time I evaluated him it was because Juan Carlos brought me to the office. When we completed a set of tests where I have to analyse certain biomechanical aspects, strength deficits that are common in tennis players and certain populational averages, I spoke to Juan Carlos and told him; ‘He’s a Ferrari that needs work.’ And I said: ‘His disposition is very good, but all he has is the bodywork.’ But we were able to work with him and add the engine.

The next step we took was to refer him to a reputable podiatrist, Carles Ruiz. He called me with his assessment after a biomechanical study on his gait… and he said ‘He’s a Ferrari.’ Afterwards, Juan Carlos and Carlos came back from the meeting with the podiatrist and Juan Carlos told me that the podiatrist had said the same as me. And we hadn’t spoken about it!

Carlos has the genetic predisposition to assimilate the work well and for everything to go well. We’ve been able to take advantage of that. Now the results are there.

Now he’s close to the Top 30, how tough is the competition with everyone in peak physical condition?
Right now, Carlos is doing things well. He has deeply ingrained some very good, healthy habits. And he knows that what he has done, picking up these habits that he didn’t have before and has acquired during his time at the Academy, is important.

It was hard work instilling them. They’re habits that are difficult to assimilate, but they’re necessary to maintain and improve the performance of an athlete. The best players in the world tend to be very disciplined when it comes to the small details. For example, eating bananas is something that we have managed to instil in him, because they contain a lot of macronutrients and micronutrients that he’s going to need. It’s now something that he takes as a given and that’s a good step forward.

Ultimately, he now knows, using a phrase that Sergio Ramos often employs, that you have to live and breathe sport. He’s even starting to enjoy that living and breathing. It’s a struggle because it’s hard work, and you think ‘If I don’t like bananas, I’m not going to eat them.’ We’re using the example of bananas, we could also talk about sushi, which has different textures he wasn’t used to. Now, though, he enjoys them. He knows that sushi is healthy food, that it helps us take on glycogen. These are physiological concepts that I am also instilling in him. He’s a kid that is gradually acquiring them.

What’s the next rung on the ladder?
He now has everything he needs to get there. Now it’s a question of him being able to maintain it. I often say ‘If we want to build the best wall in the world, we have to add a brick to it perfectly every day.’ If we manage to add that brick, in the end, we’ll have the strongest and most consistent wall. He knows that every day counts, he knows that he has to add that brick every day. He’s aware that that’s where the difficulty lies. It’s not my metaphor, but he has to get up every day, eat a good breakfast every day, rest well every day, train with intention every day, with a clear goal, be prepared to work hard… Doing that absolutely every day is so simple and so difficult at the same time. That’s all you have to do, but you have to do it every day.

How important is rest for athletes at that age?
For me, recovery is the most important thing. It’s what I try to instil in Carlos and the athletes I work with. Sleep is very important. Together with good hydration, the reintegration of nutrients during competition. Good quality nutrition. Physiotherapy sessions. Doing it there and then and not putting it off. Winding down properly is key. Respecting every single little detail is key. It is simple to follow the steps but very difficult to put them into practice.

Recovery is key to a player performing better or more consistently the day after a tough match than a player who has not followed the recovery process and has to play again the following day. It’s part of the DNA and professionalism of the tennis players from No. 30 to No. 1 in the World. They have to focus on things that are truly important. Recovery is one of them.

What would you like to see from Carlos in the next year?
I’d like him to continue to maintain what we’ve achieved so far. I’d like him to be a little more conscious of the recovery at night, to manage his sleep correctly. At night it’s a little more difficult with social media. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get him to stop and turn the screen off. There are studies that show that white light is not good for achieving a deep, reparative sleep. I’d like him to be more conscious of that.

But if he continues to do things the way he is, I believe Carlos will continue to progress. As he progresses, this becomes more important. It’s true that he has been doing things very well for a couple of years.

He will therefore be a more complete Ferrari?
Yes, we’ve given the Ferrari a lot of horsepower, and we’ll continue to take care of it so that it continues to generate its full potential. We’re going to keep working to get that 10% room for improvement he still has. He’s a great athlete, very professional and he has a good team behind him to do that.

Ruthless Alcaraz Sinks Cerundolo In Milan

Carlos Alcaraz will head into the semi-finals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in fine form after he captured his third consecutive round-robin win Thursday to top Group A with a 3-0 record.

The 18-year-old, who secured his qualification for the last four on Wednesday when he downed Brandon Nakashima, overcame Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo 4-0, 4-1, 2-4, 4-3(3) after 84 minutes in Milan.

In their first ATP Head2Head meeting, Alcaraz overpowered the World No. 91 from the baseline with his deep, heavy-hitting and saved nine of the 10 break points he faced to secure victory. With his triumph, Alcaraz is the youngest player to earn 30 tour-level wins in a season since Rafael Nadal, 18, went 30-17 in 2004.

“I am very happy to get to the semi-finals,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “It is so important and to be able to play in the semi-finals here is amazing. To play these kinds of matches and this level, I am really glad. I am playing really, really well and feel very comfortable in Milan. I want to end the year with a title.”

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Under the watchful eye of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz has dropped just one set at the 21-and-under event as he continues to live up to his top seed status in Italy. The former World No. 1 has been instructing his protégé to great effect courtside throughout the event, with on-court coaching allowed at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.

“I had to be really focused on my serve, make first serves and play aggressive on big points,” Alcaraz added. “Making first serves helped me. It is something I am trying to add to my game. The most important points is when you want the first serves.”

Earlier this year, Alcaraz lifted his maiden tour-level trophy in Umag and made headlines when he upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals at the US Open.

The recent Vienna semi-finalist will be joined by either Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune or Nakashima in the last four, with both holding 1-1 Group A records going into their match later on Wednesday.

Cordoba champion Cerundolo was already out of the tournament before his match against Alcaraz after losing his first two round-robin matches. But the World No. 91 demonstrated what he was capable off by taking a set off the Spaniard at the Allianz Cloud.

Alcaraz Secures SF Berth In Milan

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz became the first player to book their semi-final spot at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, downing American Brandon Nakashima 4-3(4), 4-1, 4-3(4) in Milan on Wednesday.

The Spaniard backed up his straight-sets victory over Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune with an impressive attacking performance against Nakashima. Alcaraz won 88 per cent (29/33) of his first-serve points and demonstrated his determination, finding his best level in both tie-breaks to advance after 86 minutes.

“I am really happy with the level I am playing at,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “I am so happy. I hope to play the semi-final at this level. The serve is very important on hard court and indoor courts. I am trying to improve the serve for my game.”

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In a high-quality match, both players struck the ball with great depth as they looked to dictate from the baseline. However, Alcaraz was the more aggressive of the two and lifted the roof off the Allianz Cloud in the second set when at 3-0, 0/15 up, he stretched every inch of his frame to stay alive in a point from deep behind the baseline, before scrambling to the net to flick the ball beyond Nakashima.

“Playing against a great player like Brandon, you play amazing points like we have played,” Alcaraz said. “We are looking for those points for the crowd as well!”

With his victory, the 18-year-old now holds a 2-0 record in Group A and moves to 1-0 in his ATPHead2Head series against Nakashima. Alcaraz – who was in regular contact with coach Juan Carlos Ferrero throughout against Nakashima due to the courtside coaching rule in place in Milan – will face Juan Manuel Cerundolo in his final round-robin match.

Earlier this season, Alcaraz clinched an ATP Challenger Tour title in Oeiras, before he won his maiden tour-level crown in Umag. The World No. 32 will be bidding to add to his growing trophy collection later this week in Milan.

Following Rune’s four-set victory against Cerundolo earlier on Wednesday, the Dane will play Nakashima for the second semi-final place in Group A. The American also overcame Cerundolo this week, meaning like Rune, he holds a 1-1 record.

Coach Knows Best: A Player's Court-side Support In Milan

After Brandon Nakashima lost the second set of his match against Juan Manuel Cerundolo at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals on Tuesday, he looked at his coach, Dusan Vemic. Normally on the ATP Tour, the American would only be able to get emotional support from his team. But this week, he can receive court-side coaching from his box, another innovation at the 21-and-under season finale.

“[He was] just sharing where I was playing my best when I was at the baseline or where I was playing my best when I was returning,” Nakashima told ATPTour.com. “[It] was just a little bit of pointers here and there on that and also on the groundstrokes, too. [He told me] some technical stuff to think about on my forehand, on my serve. But nothing too crazy.”

Even if it was not crazy, it worked. The 20-year-old lost just one game in the next two sets to finish the match.

“It was nice to have your coach right there, able to give you some input on how you’re playing out there. I kind of like it more when he doesn’t say too much as opposed maybe to other players, who like their coach talking after every point,” Nakashima said. “But it was nice to hear his thoughts a little bit after that second set. He just gave me a few sentences on what was working and what didn’t work. I think it definitely helped me just get a better understanding of the match out there. I definitely used that input to my advantage.”

Vemic felt that having the ability to coach his player was not critical, but he saw some interesting possibilities that could benefit the fans, too.

“For Brandon, it does not make a big difference,” Vemic said. “But I guess being casual and having the ability to communicate verbally or non-verbally, combined with a couple of tips and fans being able to hear the communication — maybe [for them to] feel [the communication] or be players at the same time [and] learn from those moments — might be an interesting thing.

“All in all, I don’t mind it. I’m pretty sure some players would benefit more, some less. But then again, many other sports have communication. I’m not sure if coaching would be the right word. I feel like [it is] just communication. Some people like to share thoughts… I don’t think it would hurt the sport.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/dellatorre-milan-2021-coach.jpg" alt="Andres Dellatorre“>
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
During the same match, there was more coaching at the other end of the court. Cerundolo’s coach, Andres Dellatorre, was providing advice and encouragement to his charge throughout the match.

“In other sports, the coach can talk, participate, give advice. In tennis, it is not that way. Today, it felt very natural. This change would be ideal,” Dellatorre said. “I don’t need to step onto the court. I don’t like that.

Having the chance to talk from the box, at least when the player is close to you [is good]… You give the coach an additional value. One needs to realise that most of the current players will be coaches tomorrow. Everything is connected.

“I think this was a great initiative. It felt really good and I wasn’t uncomfortable at all.”

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz had plenty of experience in his corner during his straight-sets victory against Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune. The 18-year-old Spaniard was able to turn to his coach, former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“When you’re playing the match, you don’t realise a lot of things and outside the court you realise things better,” Alcaraz said. “Some returns, some balls that I missed, he can tell me how to do better and I think he did [that]. He told me how to return better or how to hit the ball when I missed.”

Lorenzo Musetti lost the final match of the evening against Argentine Sebastian Baez. But one positive he took away from it was being able to receive feedback from his longtime coach, Simone Tartarini.

“Of course the coaching I think is a good solution,” Musetti said. “I like that and I will push to put that also on the ATP Tour.”