Carlos Alcaraz’s talent is such that it’s easy to forget that he’s still 18, finished school last year and only recently got his driving test. The Rio Open champion presented by Claro benefits from a strong group of people around him in his mission to grow, both on and off the court.
“When he’s on the court he doesn’t look like a boy,” his friend Pablo Carreno Busta told ATPTour.com. “He is very mature, but of course off the pitch he still has things to improve. [His coach] Juan Carlos [Ferrero] knows what it’s like to be world No. 1 and since that’s Carlos’ goal, he takes care of a lot of things.
“For example, Juan Carlos really insists that he [Alcaraz] must go to bed early,” adds Carreno Busta, Alcaraz’s training partner for many years at the Equelite Ferrero Academy. “[He also helps with] things like his cell phone and Instagram… normal, everyday things, but things you have to control.
” It is good too. Carlos is a kid with lots of room for improvement.
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The experienced entourage surrounding the #NextGenATP star helps keep him grounded. Even more in times like this, when he enjoys entering the Top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time. None of the big three (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal) managed to reach such heights so young.
Despite such early success, many people around Alcaraz constantly remind him how far he still has to go. Carreno Busta is one of them. “I managed to help him with some things, and it’s a real pleasure for me,” said the world No. 16, who is also Alcaraz’s regular doubles partner. “I hope I can continue to help. For me, it would be great news if Carlos learned something from me or watched me, or if I helped by training with him.
One on-court skill that Carreno Busta has passed down is touchdown. “Bunt drops, counter drops, trick your opponent…things you do in practice when you’re relaxed, but when it comes to games they can really help you,” Carreno Busta said. “Things like that he copies, and with great ease because he learns really fast as soon as you show him something.”
Although Carreno Busta is a mentor, there is also a brotherly aspect to his relationship with a player twelve years his junior. “There is competition, of course,” says the six-time ATP Tour titlist. “We compete to see who has the best shot in practice. But not just in tennis. We’re even competitive when we play chess and golf…or whatever. That’s when there’s a healthy competition between us.
Who comes out on top most often? “At the moment I’m able to beat him in most areas,” Carreno Busta replies with a smile. “At the end of the day, I have more experience at the moment, but in tennis I don’t know if I would beat him more because he is improving very quickly.” In fact, improving so rapidly that Alcaraz, who were outside the Top 130 a year ago, are now only 159 points behind Pablo in the ATP rankings.
“We trained a lot together,” explains Carreno Busta. “I always thought he had something special. Even so, it was hard to predict he would be this good so quickly, which shows how much he has grown over the past two years. I think that I had the chance to coincide with him, to see him up close in pre-season, to see all his hard work.
Carreno Busta is brotherly proud of Alcaraz’s improvement and doesn’t miss any of his friend’s matches, even when they aren’t in the same place. “I watch him every time he plays,” says the 30-year-old. “While I was traveling to Acapulco, for example, I watched what I could of his final in Rio. And I’m really happy. I’m happy with every good thing that happens to him, because he deserves it. Apart from being a great tennis player, he is very polite, very friendly, very kind and well-mannered, just like his family and those around him.
Despite Alcaraz’s rapid progress and the possibility of his young compatriot one day winning the duo’s first clash on the ATP Tour, Carreno Busta has no intention of giving up supporting and guiding the 18-year-old. Like any sibling relationship, however, that doesn’t mean he’ll always give Alcaraz an easy ride.
“Now that he has his driver’s license, he can finally take me somewhere in his car,” adds Carreno Busta. “But not yet. When he has more experience… I still don’t trust him!
– Story courtesy of ATPTour.com/es