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“It’s an extra motivation for me” – Alcaraz hoping for dream final against Djokovic


Arriving in Melbourne for the first time as a genuine contender for the Australian Open, Carlos Alcaraz is eagerly looking forward to the possibility of facing Novak Djokovic in the Serbian’s fortress at Rod Laver Arena.


“Yeah, I mean, it's an extra motivation for me,” Alcaraz told the press at Australian Open’s Kids Day ahead of the historic first Sunday start for the event universally known as the Happy Slam.

“I'm an ambitious guy. I always want to play against the best players in the world to see what is my level. Obviously, it's a good test, playing against him in the places or in the tournament that he's almost unbeaten. Yeah, I am looking for reaching the final and hopefully playing a final against him. It would be great obviously.”


Having missed the 2023 event with a hamstring injury and fallen to then-seventh seed Matteo Berrettini in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the third round of the year prior, the Australian Open is one of only a few events yet to see the best of Carlos Alcaraz.


Electing not to play any lead in tournaments, Alcaraz has prioritised his rest and the need to complete a pre-season training block instead of competitive matches to hit the ground running at Melbourne Park.


“I prefer to have a holiday,[to] have my days to recover my body, my mind as well” Alcaraz confessed.


“I prefer to do a really good pre-season. I think we discussed with my team, as well, that we need almost four, or five weeks of pre-season to prepare well this season, for the first

Grand Slam of the year.


“We have no time if I wanted to play a tournament before the Australian Open. At the

end we preferred to come here to the Australian Open, straight to a Grand Slam.


“I think I'm a guy who doesn't need so much competition before a big tournament.”


Viewed as one of the three main challengers to 10-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic alongside Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev, Alcaraz, the second seed in the men’s draw this year, will commence his campaign against veteran Frenchmen Richard Gasquet who turned pro the year before Alcaraz was born. 


The Spaniard, who said it was “special” to partake in the AO Opening Week charity matches against Alex de Minaur and Casper Ruud, did however concede that the task ahead of him at this year’s Australian Open is made all the more difficult with the absence of long-time coach and former world number 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero who is recovery from an arthroscope on his left knee.


“Well, it's tough not being with him,” said Alcaraz. “Obviously he travelled [to] almost 100% of the tournaments [with me].  Probably he missed just one or two last year. It's going to

be difficult to approach a big tournament without him.

“I have [Samuel Lopez] with me that is a great coach as well. He was coach of Juan Carlos when he was playing. I trust him. I believe in him. Juan Carlos, as well.


“I think I can learn a lot from him, as well. Let's see how is going to be. As I said, I trust him 100%.”


Should Alcaraz progress, he will face either the Englishman Dan Evans or Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.  While the former is yet to beat Alcaraz in four outings, the latter owns a 1-0 career record against Alcaraz after a 2021 victory in Cincinnati, that said, the Alcaraz of then is not the Alcaraz of now.


Tougher tests could later appear with Tommy Paul, last year’s semi-finalist, projected to face Alcaraz in the fourth round with one of Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev potentially awaiting in the quarter-final.  


Another match-up that will have fans salivating is the projected semi-final matchup between Alcaraz and his US Open conqueror Daniil Medvedev. 


Entering Arthur Ashe stadium on the back of two crushing defeats to the hands of Alcaraz, Medvedev was widely tipped to fall short against the then-defending champion who ordinarily provides a nightmare strategic and tactical match-up with Alcaraz’s all-court game regularly successful against Medvedev’s deep baseline game. Three hours later an upset had brewed with Medvedev a deserved winner 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.


Most interestingly, in discussing his downfall post-match, Alcaraz declared it was a lack of emotional maturity that prevented him from prevailing against his Russian elder.


“I thought that right now I am a better player to find solutions when the match is not going in the right direction for [me],” he said. “But, after this match, [I’m going to] change my mind. I’m not mature enough to handle these kinds of matches. So I have to learn about it.”


If Alcaraz is to get his dream final against Djokovic, the 2023 Wimbledon champion will need to turn the tide from the pair's two most recent outings after Djokovic won an enthralling nail-biter in Cincinnati in a third set tiebreaker in August only to then demolish Alcaraz 6-2 6-2 at the ATP Finals in Turin two months ago. 


That said, in his own words, Alcaraz, who has already demonstrated the ability to defeat Djokovic at grand slam level, being something that so many of his peers (like Sinner, Rune, and Tsitsipas) are yet to achieve, is “extra motivated” and “prepared to do good things [at this] grand slam”.


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