What went wrong for Carlos Alcaraz in the US Open, when he was the defending champion?

Carlos Alcaraz, the 2022 US Open champ, lost to 2021 US Open champ Daniil Medvedev in Friday's semifinals. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Carlos Alcaraz, the 2022 US Open champ, lost to 2021 US Open champ Daniil Medvedev in Friday’s semifinals. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Tennis fans have been visualizing a rematch between Novak Djokovic and world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in New York since the moment world No. 1 Alcaraz received the Wimbledon trophy in July after defeating Djokovic in an exciting five-set thriller at Wimbledon. And for the better part of the past two weeks, it appeared as though they would face one other in the final of the US Open on Sunday. Djokovic did his bit on Friday by advancing to the championship round by defeating American Ben Shelton in the first semifinal in straight sets (6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4)) and securing his berth in the match.

Daniil Medvedev, who won the US Open in 2021, had other intentions, however, and defeated the 20-year-old in the second semifinal on Friday with a score of 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. This victory terminated the 20-year-old’s chances of winning a second consecutive US Open title. With the victory, Medvedev set up a rematch of his own versus Djokovic, who he defeated here two years ago to claim his first and only major title. Medvedev will now play Djokovic for the chance to defend his title.
The question is, what went wrong for Carlos Alcaraz of Spain? Here are four things that can be learned from his departure.

 

Medvedev won the mental game.

Even throughout the tense and close third set on Friday, the Russian player, who is 27, maintained an air of composure and emotionlessness throughout the whole match. While Alcaraz leapt up early, bounced around his side of the court, and slammed balls into the wall behind the baseline, Medvedev sat with an almost calm demeanor until the very last instant of the changeovers. Medvedev’s composure was in stark contrast to Alcaraz’s.

During the tiebreak of the first set, Alcaraz displayed an uncommon lack of composure and came dangerously close to throwing his racket across the court. Following the game, Alcaraz was overheard saying, “After 3-all in the tiebreak, I lose my mind.” “Without losing control, I will make three or four points. I did not think about it. When I listen to that set, I completely lose my mind. After fighting for fifty minutes, I finally cracked under the pressure of needing four points to win. Having to deal with it was a very challenging experience for me. I was unable to make a comeback in the second set.”
When Medvedev observed Alcaraz giving vent to his feelings, he jumped on the opportunity. This, along with his whole web game, was a part of the strategy the whole time. After the match, Medvedev’s coach Gilles Cervara was quoted as saying, “In sport, I believe the energy you have, the determination, that makes a huge difference.” Cervara claimed that he instructed Medvedev to play tennis that was aggressive and offensive against Alcaraz, but that Medvedev’s mental approach was equally as crucial in achieving the victory. “To be aggressive is one part of the strategy,” Cervara explained. “But you also have to play a good mental game. It is not enough to just make hard contact with the ball.

 

Alcaraz couldn’t find an answer for Medvedev’s much-improved game.

This year, Medvedev competed against Alcaraz twice but was unable to win a set against him. “I lost two times easy to [Carlos],” Medvedev added. “It was no contest.” “Before the match, I said that in order to win today, I needed to play 11 out of 10 points.” I scored a 12 out of a possible 10.” Alcaraz concurred with the assessment that Medvedev was the more astute player on Friday.

“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,” Alcaraz said. “I thought that, right now, I am a better player to find solutions when the match is going in the wrong direction for me.” “However, you should know that after this match, I’m going to change my mind. I’m not old enough or wise enough to deal with matches of this nature. I have to educate myself on this topic. After that, Alcaraz was quite deliberate in his explanation of the aspects of Medvedev’s game that made it so challenging to respond to this particular challenge.

“He played with more speed in his shots,” Alcaraz noted about the player. Today’s forehand sprinting was quite strong. In the previous matches, the slice assisted me in finding my own game and helped me win, but today, I was unable to do so. He served exceptionally well, making no errors, and found terrific directions for his shots all throughout today’s match. He was outstanding throughout the match.

 

Medvedev’s service game was stellar.

In the first two sets of the match, Medvedev had a first-serve percentage of 88 percent, while Alcaraz did not receive the ball very effectively and had to put in far more effort to maintain his service throughout the match. In addition, Alcaraz was unable to convert on eight of the nine possibilities he had to break his opponent, while Medvedev was successful in breaking Alcaraz three times out of seven tries.

Alcaraz commented that he is one of the finest returners on the circuit. “He’s one of the best on the tour,” “It is incredible to see how he can come all the way back from the back of the court, making incredibly deep and really strong passes. When we play serve-and-volley, he always manages to find the passing shot from, well, from his house.

The previous remark caused everyone in the room, including Alcaraz, to break out into fits of laughing. “I have to find the right serve every time, and I have to serve better if I want to be able to stay in a good position after the serve,” he stated. “During the next match, I will put it into action.”

 

Medvedev played without pressure. Alcaraz succumbed to his.

The topic of whether or not a rematch between Djokovic and Alcaraz would take place and which player, amongst the two of them, would win the title has dominated the conversation surrounding the men’s draw at this year’s tournament ever since it was posed on media day on August 25. Some of the athletes took exception to such statement.

That day, Medvedev said, “It’s a great story,” and he meant it. “But then the tournament starts, and hopefully we can — and when I say ‘we,’ I mean me personally or someone else — we’re going to try to beat them and stop them from playing against each other.”
In spite of the fact that Medvedev is currently ranked third in the world and has an outstanding history in New York, which includes both a championship and a record of 26-0 when winning the first set, he entered Friday’s match as the underdog. And he played the part perfectly. On the other hand, it was practically a given that Alcaraz would win the championship. Alcaraz has stated that he is a different player this year, one who is more mature and able to cope with high-pressure situations. However, after losing against Medvedev, he admitted that he still has a long way to go in terms of maturing.

“I’m going to think about this defeat for a very long time,” remarked Alcaraz after the game. “I want to grow as a result of it. You can become a better person and mature more quickly with the help of matches like these. I need to have a conversation with my team, namely with Juan Carlos, about how I can improve.