WATCH: Carlos Alcaraz' TenniStory


Before you begin to study and attempt to learn from what Carlos Alcaraz does with his racquet, there’s a much easier Alcaraz attribute you can emulate instantly: his attitude towards competition.

Here’s something edifying that happened Friday afternoon at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Racquet bag in tow, Alcaraz arrived on the grounds for his practice session. His last two matches had gone five sets, each ending past 2:00 a.m. It’s easy to imagine how depleted that would leave Alcaraz and that it might have made sense for him on this Friday afternoon to enter the practice court looking highly subdued in the quest to harness energy for that evening’s match.

Guess again. There was Alcaraz, walking briskly, smiling broadly, massively eager to get on with the business of his upcoming semifinal versus France Tiafoe. Alcaraz’s upbeat manner was reminiscent of a baseball Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, a man whose trademark saying was, “Let’s play two.” Of course, as Alcaraz’s trio of US Open matches have proven, for him the more accurate phrase is, “Let’s play five.” This is a man who takes joy in every step of the competitive process.

Once the match begins, Alcaraz remains persistently positive. “People are hitting winners and he never gets down or disappointed,” says strategist Craig O’Shannessy ( “There’s a lot to be learned from that. He just savors every minute of it.”

Alcaraz became the youngest men's player to win a major since Rafael Nadal at 2005 Roland Garros.

Alcaraz became the youngest men's player to win a major since Rafael Nadal at 2005 Roland Garros.

Then there’s the way Alcaraz plays. It’s clear he has devoted considerable time to the study and practice of a wide range of shots. “Be willing to do everything,” says O’Shannessy. “If he needs to serve and volley, he can do that. If he needs to play defense, he can do that. He’s got plan A to Z, ready to go at any moment. Always look for ways to expand your toolkit.”

At the same time, watch how Alcaraz remains well aware of his core competencies, in his case a heavy topspin forehand that keeps opponents pinned deep—and therefore opens up the court for deft drop shots.

If the lesson from Alcaraz is one of breadth, Casper Ruud is also a man of considerable depth. “It really is important to practice hitting the ball deep again and again,” says Bob Bridgeford, a Los Angeles area teaching pro. “People tend to go for too much too early.” Not Ruud, who in his semifinal victory over Karen Khachanov closed out the first set tiebreaker by winning a 55-ball rally.

“He’s not going to beat himself,” says Bridgeford. “He hits with a high margin for error.” Recreational players can learn from that too. Forget trying to hit those net-skimmers. Aim high and deep and usually crosscourt.


Note also how Ruud counters net-rushers who attack his backhand. “He doesn’t instantly try to blast the pass,” says Bridgeford. “Instead, he’ll slice slow and force his opponent to hit a good volley. Basically, what he’s saying is, ‘you’re going to have to beat me.’”

And yet, with the match tied at one set apiece, Ruud held two set points, only to see them erased. Then, at 6-all, Ruud indeed beat himself, making a slew of groundstroke errors that opened the door for Alcaraz to handily win that tiebreaker, 7-1. Soon enough, Alcaraz rode that wave of momentum just well enough to close it out in the fourth set.

For all that world-class technique and composure, Ruud reminded us that the world’s very best players are humans like the rest of us. Then again, over the course of two weeks of excellent tennis from both finalists, there were even more reminders of how they’re not.