Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button
NewsScoresRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastShopPro GearPickleballGear Sale

By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, August 23, 2023


Hall of Famers and ESPN analysts John McEnroe and Chrissie Evert assess Carlos Alcaraz's playing style and future ahead of his US Open title defense.

Photo credit: Tim Clayton/Getty

As a champion and commentator, John McEnroe has lived out crowning achievements on Grand Slam stages for decades.

McEnroe handed Carlos Alcaraz the shiny silver US Open trophy after the 19-year-old Spaniard stopped Casper Ruud in the final to capture his maiden major last September.

More: Laver Cup Final Rosters

Hall of Famer McEnroe bestowed another title on Alcaraz today: Most complete 20-year-old player he's ever seen.

In a Zoom call with the media to promote ESPN's exclusive first ball to last ball US Open coverage starting on Monday, August 28th at noon on ESPN, we asked McEnroe to assess Alcaraz's future.

While some coaches and commentators have suggested the creative Spanish shotmaker must dial down his crowd-pleasing style and play higher-percentage (read: conventional) tennis, McEnroe isn't buying it.

The man who held the world No. 1 ranking in singles and doubles simultaneously said Alcaraz's style of play is too electrifying to tone down.

"I think that the way he plays is absolutely spectacular, and I don't think that -- every now and then - he's 20 years old - he may make a decision that you think, well, maybe he could have played it a little safer, but he had match point on Djokovic two days ago," McEnroe told Tennis Now. "Come on. This guy is amazing. Electric is this guy.

"To think that you would want to tinker -- the guy can do everything. He's the most complete 20-year-old I've ever seen, and that includes Novak and Roger and Rafa."

The greatest threat to Alcaraz's supremacy is health rather than playing style, McEnroe told Tennis Now. 

When you can do it all, you should use it all, the four-time US Open champion said.

"Now, obviously it remains to be seen if he could keep it up just health-wise, I'd be way more worried about him being able to stay healthy than I would be about the type of game he plays," McEnroe said of Alcaraz, who withdrew from the Australian Open in January due to a right hamstring injury. "He can do it all on all the surfaces. That's the least of our worries."

Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Chrissie Evert told Tennis Now Alcaraz's explosive game is an extension of his engaging personality. Evert asserts Alcaraz is at his best playing instinctual free-flowing tennis that unleashes his creative shot-making.

"I think that looking at his personality and the fun and the enjoyment that he seems to have on the court by being fearless and by taking risks -- I mean, he's a risk taker," Evert told Tennis Now. "I think that just all fits into his personality, and you can't really take that away from him or try to tame that. I think that would be a mistake.

"I think he will have longevity, if like John says, he stays healthy and he really paces himself and doesn't play week in and week out, and he really picks and chooses very carefully when he has his time off."

The connection the Spanish showman has established with fans can fuel the game's growth, Evert said.

"But he's great for the game, and he just has that kind of style now, that kind of athletic tennis that he's a showman, he's a tremendous athlete, shot maker, personality on the court," Evert said. "I think you can't take any of that away from him and just let him be himself."

Speed kills and thrills. McEnroe calls Alcaraz "one of the top couple quickest guys I've ever seen on a tennis court."

In an interview with Tennis Now two days before the 2022 US Open, Alcaraz said he believes his best weapon is his unpredictability. 

"I would say [my strength is] the opponent doesn't know what I am going to do in a moment," Alcaraz told Tennis Now. "So it can be a little unpredictable. I can do a drop shot or play from the baseline, so I would say that the unpredictable is a strength because you can do a great drop shot or play a baseline game they're not sure what is coming."

Evert envisions more majors coming in Alcaraz's future if he continues to trust himself. For Evert, Alcaraz delivers his most inspired tennis playing on pure instinct.

"I think one of his best gifts is his instinct and his intuitiveness as far as what shot to hit. I almost think if he thinks too much that that hurts him, that that goes against him," Evert said. "I saw a couple of things in evidence. The way that he all of a sudden -- he'll all of a sudden drop shot from the back of the baseline. That's like a last-minute decision because that's not a normal shot, to drop shot behind the baseline.

"Instinctively he creates these angles, creates these shots. I saw Ferrero say one time to him, against Novak, because Novak was getting tired, "drop shot him." The next two drop shots that he tried against a very fatigued Novak went like to the service line because he was told to do that, and he didn't do it on his own.

"He didn't do it on his own instinct. I almost think that is a great trait that he has, and when he has to think like too much, that's going to get him into trouble."


Latest News