World number one Carlos Alcaraz admits he occasionally hankers for anonymity after a breakout year that saw him emerge as the hottest young talent in men’s tennis.
The 20-year-old Spaniard won his maiden Grand Slam singles title at the US Open a year ago and then followed it up with victory over Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final in July.
Alcaraz is back in New York preparing to defend his US Open crown when the final Grand Slam event of the season starts on Monday.
A year ago, Alcaraz arrived in the Big Apple as a relative unknown, able to roam the city largely in peace. Twelve months on, and Alcaraz admits those days are gone.
“Sometimes you want to feel like a normal guy, to walk normally,” Alcaraz said Friday.
“Here in New York, there are a lot of Spanish people, South American people as well. It’s difficult for me to walk normally sometimes.
“I wish some days to be someone not recognized at all. But it’s going to be impossible. I have to enjoy that part as well. But sometimes it makes difficult.”
Not that Alcaraz is complaining. The Spaniard believes that his successes have made him a better player than 12 months ago.
“The personal life didn’t change at all. I’m the same guy, normal guy,” Alcaraz said. “Obviously I feel that I’m more mature on court. I feel that I’m a better player than I was a year ago.
“Even I got my first Grand Slam last year, but I feel like I’m more mature and I’m better.”
The US Open draw has raised the prospect that Alcaraz could well end up facing 23-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic once again in the final on September 10.
The two men delivered a blockbuster five-set Wimbledon final thriller, and also met again last week in the final of the Cincinnati Open, with Djokovic winning in just under four hours.
Alcaraz says he is trying to incorporate Djokovic’s mental durability into his own game.
“He’s one of the greatest of all time from our sport, no doubts about it,” Alcaraz said of Djokovic. “Everything he does in the game is unbelievable.
“Probably his mental rock. I going to say he never give up. I mean, tough, tough moment, probably he shows that he’s down and he’s going to lose, and he’s always give the chance to himself to keep playing and be able to win.
“Probably that’s the most important thing that he has, and I try to take in my own game… That’s something that I learn and I’ll try to do in my own game.”