BUENOS AIRES – Carlos Alcaraz returns to tennis action in Buenos Aires after four months on the sidelines, admitting “it won’t be easy” playing catch-up with rivals who already have six weeks under their belts in 2023.
The 19-year-old Spanish sensation captured a maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2022 before going on to become the youngest-ever world No. 1.
However, a leg muscle tear at the Paris Masters in November meant he missed the start of this season, including the Australian Open won by Novak Djokovic.
Alcaraz also lost his top ranking to the 22-time Major winner from Serbia.
“This will be my first tournament since I picked up the injury in Paris,” he told a news conference on Saturday at the Buenos Aires clay-court event.
“It’s been four months since then. But I always arrive thinking about winning and wanting to win, even though it won’t be easy after such a long time without competing.”
Alcaraz will get his season under way in the Argentinian capital with a second-round clash against either Fabio Fognini or Laslo Djere after receiving a first-round bye.
“I’ve come a few days early, to train with really good players, gradually improve and to be able to start the tournament as well as possible,” added the top seed.
Alcaraz had a breakout 2022. As well as becoming the youngest US Open champion since Pete Sampras in 1990, he also defeated Djokovic and compatriot Rafael Nadal on back-to-back days on his way to the Madrid Masters crown.
He also claimed the Miami Masters and ATP 500-level trophies in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.
“It was a very good year. I achieved my dream, my goal, very quickly. I dealt with it as naturally as possible,” said Alcaraz.
“After becoming No. 1, I had to set new goals, new things for the long term, to continue to enjoy myself, continue to improve because I’m very young and I have a lot of things to improve.
“Despite being the No. 1, you have to keep training and looking forward.”
He has few doubts over who he needs to keep emulating – Nadal, Djokovic and the now-retired Roger Federer.
“When they were young, they were so good but, as time has gone by, they’ve improved...
“I think I can improve everything in terms of my game, fitness and mentality. Little by little, my team will take those small steps to get even better.” AFP, REUTERS