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Alcaraz or Nadal? Who Will Win More Slams?

Young Spanish Tennis Player Carlos Alcaraz

Ross Lyon |

INTRODUCTION

The year is 2003. Carlos Moya – then world number 4 – entered Hamburg in May looking to win another clay court title that season – having already captured his first of the year in Buenos Aires and his second in Barcelona. After ousting a tricky qualifier in 3 sets in round 1, Moya faced up to another qualifier in round 2.

Just a fresh-faced teenager beginning to make a name on tour, 16-year-old Rafael Nadal edged out Moya in a match which truly introduced us to Nadal and his trademark forehand spin. It’s widely remembered as the day Nadal truly introduced himself to the world and began his journey to dominating tennis for over a decade.

But now a new challenger has arrived on the scene. Tipped at a young age by many Spaniards for greatness, Carlos Alcaraz has frequently been proclaimed by fans as “the next Nadal”. Alcaraz plays with a similar style to Nadal, looking to use his powerful forehand to dictate rallies. Paired with great footspeed and an impeccable disguised dropshot, Alcaraz has taken the tour by storm since his debut win in Rio in 2020 against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Comparison is inevitable. With Nadal edging closer and closer to retirement, a world without Fedal is becoming more and more of a possibility. Meanwhile, Alcaraz is just beginning his tennis journey, and with the Big 3 wilting due to age, it could be Alcaraz who ushers in his own period of dominance.

The big question is: will Carlos Alcaraz win more grand slams than Rafael Nadal? In the power vacuum left behind by the approaching departure of the Big 3, there will be an opportunity for a new player to stake their claim for dominating the new generation of tennis.

 

1. INJURIES AND HEALTH

Alcaraz has already been hampered with a variety of minor injuries – similarly to Nadal. Since last summer, he has missed the Australian Open, the Davis Cup finals and the 2022 ATP Year End Finals as well as retiring from matches frequently. With a game that features so much explosive power, there are justified concerns that Alcaraz’s body may not hold up in the long run. However, Alcaraz so far has avoided too many severe injuries, and must be hoping that trend continues for as long as possible.

Nadal also faced a wide range of injuries throughout his career, and his early days were no exception. However Nadal’s body has survived and adapted over the years to keep him in contention for the biggest events on tour. He has consistently won majors, while finding the right balance between rest and competing in order to take care of his body in the long run. Nowadays, Nadal plays through the pain to compete, but has admitted that this cannot continue.

2. LONGEVITY

Winning over 20 grand slams is a feat of sporting brilliance, of continued hard work and great skill. Ensuring that you consistently win the biggest tournaments for over a decade is a measure of drive, mentality, and motivation. As mentioned above, injuries and health are also a key factor in determining this.

In order to match Nadal’s insane tally of 21 grand slam titles, Alcaraz will need to win at least one slam per season for the next 15 years just to be within reach of the greats. This will largely be determined by the level of high quality competition that Alcaraz faces in the coming decade.

3. COMPETITION

As of April 2023, the men’s tennis landscape is changing. The decade long dominance of the Big 4 at the top of the ranking list has ended, and now rankings are more volatile. Alcaraz is currently taking the rankings by storm and is battling for the number 1 spot consistently. Very few of the “next gen” have competed with the Big 3 in a similar fashion to Alcaraz so far.

Although Thiem and Medvedev have provided strong competition in the grand slams at times in the past 5 years, they have both claimed only 1 each after considerable spells around the peak of the sport. Now Thiem looks unlikely to consistently perform at the highest level. Medvedev on the other hand looks ready to challenge at the top of the sport long into the future.

And then there are the unproven challengers. Zverev, Berrettini, Tsitsipas and Kyrgios have intermittently showed their grand slam potential and are now approaching their prime years, whereas Sinner, Rublev, Auger-Aliassime and Rune are still young and developing.

Therefore, Alcaraz could be the victim of many players peaking in the next couple years or could be the beneficiary of all of these players failing to live up to their true potential.

4. ALCARAZ

All of the above speculation is assuming that Alcaraz will continue playing at such a high level of tennis for a long time. Many “Next Gen” players have flashed onto the scene, before sliding downwards in the ATP rankings. There have been many great players who have only won a couple grand slams - which of course is still a very respectable feat! For example, Marin Cilic won the US Open but could not repeat this success any further (albeit playing during the Big 4’s prime years). Therefore, the onus is also on Alcaraz to continue this sparkling start to his professional career.

 

OUR CONCLUSION

Carlos Alcaraz has been a breath of fresh air ever since he burst onto the scene. Now that he is consolidating his stay at the top of the tennis world, it’s easy to begin dreaming of how many slams he will win. However, although we aren’t convinced that he can fully replicate Nadal’s greatness, we are all certain that he will enjoy a great career.

Final Prediction – Alcaraz wins 10-15 grand slams.

 

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