He has been attending the media all morning. They have taken him from his hotel to Times Square to take photos with the US Open trophy that he took on Sunday and, on his way back, they interrupt him with phone calls. It is the price he has to pay for having become the youngest number one in ATP history. Carlos Alcaraz (19) knows it, accepts it and attends La Vanguardia with a smile.
On Sunday, still on the track, he said that with the family and the team they had made difficult decisions. What was she referring to?
Because I am young and the difficult decisions were still made by them for me. I didn't paint much and in a tennis player's career you have to make difficult decisions. Training, coach, marks, hard times you have to face... And obviously, being young, they had the last decision until now.
In the US, there are those who refer to you as “fearless”. Do you feel that way, fearless? What are you afraid of as a player?
Well, as a tennis player, I'm afraid of disappointing. If that is. It's probably one of my fears. Letting all my people down, not living up to what they think. Especially those around me. Regarding the others, there are many people who think and have opinions, but disappointing those around me is what scares me the most.
What do you think they expect of you?
Well I do not know. Actually they tell me that they don't care if I lose in the first round or if I lose in the final... But it's a thought that I have inside.
And off the track? What is Carlitos, the boy from Murcia, afraid of?
As an ordinary boy, I am afraid of many things. He would tell the dark. I'm also not a fan of scary movies. Neither of the spiders, really.
About eight years ago, on an old Instagram account of his, he posted a photo and commented "money, racket, chips... I have it all, ha ha ha." She still has the racket, I don't know if she still likes potatoes and as for the money, on Sunday they gave her a check for 2.6 million. Do you still have it all?
(Laughter) Well, when you're little, you post nonsense, don't you? As you get older, you realize that there are many more important things than tennis. The money, the food... You can't trivialize.
Now that you are number one, is there any goal in tennis that you are excited about?
Play with Federer. Right now I have little chance of being able to play against him, but I would like to. And also beat one of the Big Three (Federer, Djokovic, Nadal) in a Grand Slam. I've always said that to be the best you have to beat the best.
He already has a Grand Slam. Rafa Nadal is 22. Do you want Rafa to stay there to be closer to catching him?
No, what's up, not at all. I will always be proud that Rafa wins Grand Slams. And obviously, if I lose in a Grand Slam, I will be the first to cheer him on so that he wins, I will be with a Spaniard and cheering on a Spaniard. Honestly, with a title I don't feel close to all that. For now I'm going to think about the second, that's the goal I have.
You said a few years ago that you did not feel chosen. Now that you're breaking records for earliness, do you think you have something special?
No, I stand by my answer. Nobody gives you anything. Nobody makes a snap and has everything they ask for, but things have to be worked for, things have to be earned. What I have achieved, winning a Grand Slam, being number one in the world, has been due to the work that I have been doing together with my team for a long time. And it has not been a bed of roses, but you have to suffer and spend moments bad too to get to this point.
Many elite tennis players have a "mental coach" on their team. You also have help in that field. How does it contribute to your game?
Yes, I have been working with a psychologist since the beginning of 2019, Isabel Balaguer. She is a very good professional and has helped me. She is one of the main causes that she can be number one in the world today. I have improved a lot thanks to her. It is a super important job, since tennis is demanding week after week. For a whole year you have to be mentally fresh, you have to know how to withstand the pressure, that everyone has eyes on you. Without someone to help you in that aspect, I would not say impossible, but it is much more complicated.
What does he tell you? What tools does it give you?
We talk, he gives me advice, he tells me to do this and that in certain situations, he helps on the track… Lots of tools.
And how to show yourself to the people or the press?
No, in that aspect I show what I am. Well, there are times when it's a bit overwhelming when you're walking down the street and they recognize you, and he gives me advice on how to deal with it.
You, like many tennis players, also have routines when you go out to play...
Before games I don't have a clear routine. If I feel like listening to music, I listen to music, if not, no. I act as I feel like at that moment. In games I do have more manias: the towel, the four balls, throwing them five times, the bottles always in order, always drinking first one, then another, the bite always first to the bar and then to the banana....
As an escape route, he likes to go out with friends...
Well, I like to go to the beach, be quiet, go to a friend's house, go somewhere with friends... I'm a very basic boy. And the most basic is what is most enjoyed. Being with five or six friends sitting on a bench, in a car, in a house, talking quietly, having a good time, laughing, telling each other anecdotes, that makes me happy.