What Will Be The Best Surface For Carlos Alcaraz?
He took 3 months away from tennis and got back a tour win in his first tournament. We know that Carlos Alcaraz is really exceptional. The former world No. 1 lost just one set en route to victory at the Argentina Open, his 7th tour title.
After struggling with hamstring and abdominal injuries that kept him away from the Australian Open, Alcaraz made the interesting decision to return to clay, a body-tough surface. He plays clay before the two hard courts of the Sunshine Slam. He then returns to the long and grueling audio source on the road to Roland Garros.
This change between clay and hard courts begs the question: what will be Carlos Alcaraz’s best surface in the end?
Let’s eliminate grass for now because his best result at Wimbledon is only 4th round and for his young career he is only 4-2 on grass at ATP level. It’s not enough of one work.
So remains sand against hard court. Of his seven titles, 5 have come to clay. But one of his two titles on hard court is the US Open – that’s a statement. His performance on the two surfaces is similar: Alcaraz is 43-11 on clay and 47-18 on hard. Conclusion: It’s early. He’s still a few months into his teens. His brain and his game are still malleable. We have no idea what this kid is capable of. But let’s have some fun and examine where its trajectory might be going in relation to the surface.
If Carlos Alcaraz has a signature shot at the tender age of 19, it’s the drop shot. It’s exciting, it’s beguiling, and it’s used to win tournaments.
According to ATP Tour stats, Alcaraz has an amazing 68% point win rate when using the forehand drop shot. This means that not only does he execute the shot, but he also knows when to use it and what to do afterward. On the backhand side, his win rate is 52% – still great. According to ATP, those percentages go up on clay. Of course they do – it’s a better shot to use on this surface. However, if the dropper is Alcaraz’ trademark, that speaks to the fact that clay is his best surface at the moment.
return of serve
Some players are great servers; some players are great returnees; and like the Big 3, some players are both. Carlos Alcaraz is on his way to ‘both’ but at the moment his return skills are ahead of the pack. His ATP serve rating on all surfaces for the past year is ranked 21. His return rating is 3.
Alcaraz has an innate ability to adjust his shot and bring position back to the surface. You’ll see him stand far back on clay even on the second serve and take a monster hit on returns, a la Rafael Nadal. And you’ll also see him stand closer to the baseline against first serves on hard court, using his defensive skills to achieve uncanny depth a la Novak Djokovic. He adapts.
Right now his return rating on clay is a 12. His return rating on hard is a stunning #2 – second only to Daniil Medvedev. Advantage: hard court.
Since showing up for days at the Australian Open 2022 with guns, Alcaraz has broken new ground with his exceptional level of fitness. Alcaraz is known for having a rigorous training program that includes a combination of strength training, cardiovascular exercise and flexibility exercises. This level of fitness is even more important on clay than on hard court, as the bounce and average rally distance are slightly longer than on hard court.
His advantage over some of his peers in fitness and conditioning makes him a major threat on clay.
All in all, I see Alcaraz as a slightly better clay court player at the moment. Or we could just ask him and he says his favorite surface is clay. Here you go.