"To play in a great intensity like four hours it's really tough for me..." the 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz explained after his retirement in the Open quarterfinal against Felix Auger-Aliassime. Alcaraz could have only tolerated one complete set in the Big Apple Slam before bowing.
It was the first quarterfinal that he has ever gotten to in a Slam and was just astonished by the crowds and his performance in the big arenas. The Canadian saw that after the match went on with 1-all, he'd better start playing a super aggressive game against the Madrid phenom Alcaraz.
Felix went up 3-2 with the Spaniard slamming volleys and blasting cross courts over to Auger-Aliassime. But at times, it seemed that the Canadian had the upper hand even though Alcaraz proved such a scrappy player that it drew out the best in all his opponents.
The fiery exchanges over the net were proving suspenseful but also a duty for Alcaraz to maintain his balance and reputation as a spirited player crushing each shot for a victory. "Before the match, I felt it...at the end of the first set and the beginning of the second set, it started to improve with the pain," Carlos had said.
He had hidden the fact that he was in great pain and that's why it was a shock when he ended the match after a few games into the second set. It just wasn't very obvious that he wasn't able to play. The teen's shots were starting to speed past the mark as unforced errors began adding up.
Despite the stretching for shots and very often pushing up great backhands, the start of the second set would be Alcaraz's last at the U.S. Open. At the beginning of the tournament, it was all fun and games. But as the rounds went on, the Spaniard's hours on the court became longer and more laboured.
In the first round he had won three straight sets against the Brit Cameron Norrie. But it was with the Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech that he was pushed to four sets and yet still came up the winner. But the endurance that he needed might not have been within an 18-year-old's body, who was never pushed to play back-to-back 5-set matches this entire season.
It's really tough to recover for the next matches", Alcaraz would politely comment at press time. I didn't feel good to keep playing," the Spaniard would shake his head and say honestly. The score was 2-1 when the pain and anguish at playing anymore were too much and he met Auger-Aliassime to the middle of the net to shake hands and end his stay in the U.S.
Open. The problem was the right abductor, his right thigh muscle that was the culprit and he was more glad to end the play than to leave a Slam that he did exceptionally well at playing his opponents. He can surely remember his first and only title that came in July at the Croatia Open in Umag.
He had defeated Frenchman Richard Gasquet who had all praise for the teen. "He plays amazing tennis...he hits hard from both sides, he serves well, he's quick," Gasquet had gushed overpraising the top 50 ranked player.
"This tournament made me mature a lot...I'm really happy to play a first quarterfinal slam", Alcaraz smilingly said. It might have been his thigh that causes him to crumble and quite but his spirit for the U.S.
Open and the staff that has tended to him. This justifies why he probably is yearning to come back next year. He didn't want to go out this way but couldn't continue and says "I have only positive feelings for this tournament."