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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday July 1, 2022

 
Carlos Alcaraz

After struggling in his opening round match, Carlos Alcaraz has found firm footing on the lush lawns of Wimbledon.

Photo Source: Getty

It takes years for some players to figure out how to move – and thrive – on Wimbledon’s grass.

Some players never learn. Others learn but never quite hit their stride. They keep running into that big server, or deft attacker, that won’t let them pass.

Tennis Express

Carlos Alcaraz appears to be the opposite. Playing in his fifth career match on grass on Friday, he demonstrated how far he has come in the span of a single week by ripping past Germany’s Oscar Otte, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in 98 minutes.

The 19-year-old (20 next May 5th) becomes the youngest player to reach the round of 16 since 2011 with his win, and sets a clash with Jannik Sinner for a spot in the quarterfinals.

The precocious Spaniard, who struggled to wiggle past Jan-Lennard Struff from two sets to one down in a four hour and 11-minute clash in the first round, now seems like a totally different player. He was a bit frantic in that match, never really finding a sense of comfort in the backcourt. Now he’s behind the ball, measuring up his footwork, and timing the ball cleanly. He’s serving bullets as well.

The star student is now confidently handing out lessons at SW19.


“Probably this was the best match on grass that I played,” he said after his win over Otte. “I’m enjoying every single second that I play on the grass, in this amazing court.”

Platitudes, perhaps, but if we forget the words and simply ponder the player, it’s clear that Alcaraz really is embracing grass. Furthermore, he obviously has the tennis IQ and toolbox to make a brilliant player on it.

If this is how he looks after five matches, how good will he be after 15?

Alcaraz is simply focused on the sixth.

“It’s tough to play on grass,” he said. “But of course, Wimbledon gives you special energy – I’m trying to play better every match, and every day that I play on grass - I would say that in the fourth round I will be another player.”

Alcaraz has already hit 149 winners against 68 unforced errors in the tournament, but today’s numbers (37 winners, eight unforced) were his best by far.

He has been broken three times in three matches – but not a single time today against Otte, as he won all but 14 service points and saved the only break point he faced.


Sinner Rising as Well

Alcaraz isn’t the only young gun finding his way on the grass at Wimbledon this week. 20-year-old Jannik Sinner has won his first main draw match at SW19 and parlayed that into a fourth-round appearance.

The No.10-seeded Italian has a game that can thrive on the grass as well, with blistering serves and top-flight, flat power from the baseline.

The two youngest players remaining in the men's draw are set for a heavily anticipated clash that could end up being one of the greatest rivalries of the next decade of men's stennis.

Sinner sauntered past John Isner on Friday, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3, breaking the American twice and cracking 29 winners against 18 unforced errors to prevail in two hours and 20 minutes.

The San Candido, Italy native has added legendary coach Darren Cahill to his team during the grass season and it is difficult to imagine that decision not paying dividends for the young Italian. Cahill, who has guided Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep previously (most recently Amanda Anisimova), knows his way around the surface.

And Sinner knows his way around the grass, as he has wound his way through a difficult week one draw in London. He needed to be on his toes from the start, and has been. Sinner defeated Stan Wawrinka and Mikael Ymer in four sets before today’s win, and made it look easy against 2108 semifinalist Isner on Friday, passing one of the most difficult tests in tennis with flying colors.

Like Alcaraz, Sinner has very limited experience on grass – today was his seventh tour-level match, and his fifth win on the surface.

Alcaraz owns the 1-0 lifetime edge against the Italian, having defeated him at the Paris Masters last year, 7-6(1), 7-5, in second-round action.

 

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