IF anybody outside the tennis world had forgotten about Carlos Alcaraz after an injury-hit few months, the Spanish teenager has quickly reminded them of his precocious talent.
The 19-year-old US Open champion is back on court, back to his best and back as the world number one.
But if Alcaraz does not defend his Miami title this fortnight, and the 1 000 ranking points which come with victory, he will be overtaken again at the top of the world rankings by Novak Djokovic — even though the 35-year-old Serb is not playing in Florida.
Their duel for the ATP top spot — which is calculated by points accrued over the previous 52 weeks — is set to continue over the coming months.
And the dominant manner in which Alcaraz swept to the prestigious Indian Wells title last week fuelled thoughts about a tantalising battle with Djokovic for the sport’s biggest prizes in 2023.
“Novak is one of the best players in the world. That’s obvious. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” said Alcaraz.
“I wish to play against him many more times.”
For now, Alcaraz — and the rest of us — must wait a little longer . . .
Frustratingly, the battle between Alcaraz and Djokovic is developing without both present at key tournaments and little chance for the pair to go toe-to-toe on the court.
When Djokovic swept aside a raft of younger opponents to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam men’s title at the Australian Open, it led to the obvious questions about why the next generation could not stop him.
Djokovic was outlandish in his brilliance, showing all the facets of his greatness — technique, athleticism, mindset — on his way to another victory in Melbourne.
Things might have turned out differently had Alcaraz, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury, been able to play.
Then again, things might have turned out differently had Djokovic been able to play at the US Open and Indian Wells.
Djokovic is still not allowed to enter the United States because he is not vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning he is also missing in Miami. — BBCsport.