Is Carlos Alcaraz in a post-Wimbledon slump?
After winning both Queens and Wimbledon this year, the 20-year-old Spaniard has competed in Toronto, Cincinnati, the US Open, Beijing, and Shanghai. He failed to win any of those five events and only made one final (Cincy).
So what gives?
Let’s put the magnifying glass over his two most recent losses in Asia to figure out what’s going wrong when he is losing matches.
- Beijing Semi-Finals: Lost 7-6(4), 6-1 to Jannik Sinner
- Shanghai Rd 16: Lost 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 to Grigor Dimitrov
When you blend both these matches into one data set, you get an idea of what’s going wrong. I found ten red flags with his game from all parts of the court.
Let’s dive in.
1: Baseline Performance
In 60 matches from the 2023 season, Carlos Alcaraz has won 4176 points standing at the baseline. His opponents have won 3376. That gives Alcaraz a very healthy 55% to 45% advantage. It’s actually difficult to imagine Carlos losing the baseline battle in any match. But that’s exactly what happened against Dimitrov and Sinner combined.
Baseline Points Won
- Alcaraz = 111
- Sinner & Dimitrov 123
What this does more than anything else is create belief in all his opponents’ minds that Carlos is actually beatable from the back of the court. His forehands and backhands are from another world, but if Sinner and Dimitrov can win this important battleground, then why can’t others?
2: Forehand Errors From Position A
The picture above is the ideal way to cut up the court. I first created the ABCD zones in response to player movement on Hawk-Eye heat maps.
Alcaraz is bleeding forehand errors in Position A. That’s where Sinner and Dimitrov attacked him from the back of the court.
ABCD is Golden Rules #14 in the 25 Golden Rules of Singles Strategy
Alcaraz Forehand Errors
- Position A = 28
- Position B = 9
- Position C = 3
- Position D = 8
- Total = 48
Sinner & Dimitrov Forehand Errors Combined
- Position A = 20
- Position B = 4
- Position C = 7
- Position D = 5
- Total = 36
The errors are two-fold. The first is that this is also a location where Alcaraz typically hits his most winners. So going for big forehands out of Position A will sometimes reward him. But in these two matches, he only had five forehand winners out of Position A, and six out of Position B. That’s very unusual for him.
In 60 matches in 2023, he has hit 232 forehand winners out of Position A. The next highest is 186 out of Position B. As you can clearly see, he normally crushes out of Position A.
But not against Dimitrov and Sinner.
3: Winners & Errors
This first stat is quite shocking.
Sinner and Dimitrov hit more winners than Alcaraz in the two matches. That’s a simply stunning statistic.
- Alcaraz = 39 winners
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 43 winners
Alcaraz is well known for crushing the ball from all over the court. He may lose a match or two, but you can always picture him going down swinging. It’s eye-opening that the typical production of Alcaraz winners is considerably more than his opponents – whether winning or losing the match.
Alcaraz hit fewer winners, and he also committed more errors.
- Alcaraz = 116 errors
- Sinner & Dimitrov= 104 errors
Losing one of these battles makes sense. But to hit fewer winners and commit more errors is not something you will see very often at all from Alcaraz. Something is definitely awry here.
4: Net Points Won
Alcaraz is a complete, all-court player. He has no problems going to the net to finish points. But in these two losses, his opponents went to the net more than he did. That’s a troubling sign.
- Alcaraz at net = 47 times
- Sinner & Dimitrov at net = 54 times
For Alcaraz to lose the battle of the baseline, hit fewer winners, commit more errors, and now go to the net fewer times than Sinner and Dimitrov, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are coming together to understand why these two losses occurred.
Alcaraz is at his best when he is dictating. He is at his best when he is controlling the point and moving his opponent around the court. He is at his best when he is coming forward to the net to finish points. That’s not happening as much as we are used to. Alcaraz won 68% at net, and Sinner and Dimitrov combined to win 67%.
Alcaraz is almost always at the net more than his opponents.
5: First Point Of The Service Game
More troubling match metrics here for the Spaniard. What we are looking at is the correlation of starting your service game 15-0 up or 0-15 down and still holding serve.
Winning The Opening Point On Serve (Going To 15-0)
- Alcaraz = 16/25 (64%)
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 16/24 (67%)
Everything looks fairly even on both sides of the equation with moving to 15-0. And as you will see below, everything looks even with holding serve from 15-0.
Holding Serve From 15-0
- Alcaraz = 12/16 (75%)
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 13/16 (81%)
Now the problems for Alcaraz begin when he attempts to hold serve from a 0-15 hole.
Holding Serve From 0-15
- Alcaraz = 4/9 (44%)
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 7/8 (88%)
This is night and day. Alcaraz was only able to hold serve a lowly 44% of the time when he fell behind 0-15 on serve. That early hole got bigger very quickly for him. Sinner and Dimitrov, on the other hand, were almost perfect, holding serve seven of eight times from 0-15.
This is the gateway to breaking serve. Falling behind early in your service game quite often sets the weather for the rest of the game. Alcaraz could never really find his way out of the hole, while Sinner and Dimitrov escaped time and time again.
6: Mid-Length Rallies Of 5-8 Shots
Alcaraz lost the battle of short and medium rallies in these two losses to Sinner and Dimitrov. It was the mid-length rallies where the bleeding occurred the most.
Alcaraz Rally Length Won/Lost
- 0-4 Shots = -4 (Alcaraz 86 / Sinner & Dimitrov 90)
- 5-8 Shots = -15 (Alcaraz 31/ Sinner & Dimitrov 46)
- 9+ Shots = 3 (Alcaraz 26 / Sinner & Dimitrov 23)
When you combined short and medium rallies, Alcaraz ended -19 when rallies were 0-8 shots. Losing the start of the point is never going to get the job done. This is typically the sweet spot of his attacking game, so it’s a great effort from Sinner and Dimitrov to put up such good numbers here.
7: 2nd Serves Won = 43%
- Alcaraz = 43% won
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 51% won
Alcaraz didn’t hit a single double fault in these two matches, while his two opponents committed four. This is another strange stat that we are not used to seeing, as Alcaraz has such a potent second serve.
- Deuce Court = Won 58% (11/19)
- Ad Court = Won 32% (8/25)
Alcaraz got crushed with his second serve in the Ad court, only winning 32% (8/25). The reason why? Predictability.
He served 19 serves to the backhand and only six to the forehand. Both Sinner and Dimitrov were sitting on their backhand return. Alcaraz only won 32% (6/19) to this critical location. Someone had done their homework.
8: Alcaraz Forehand Return
Alcaraz hit 55% (81/146) of his returns as a backhand. He made 86% (70) of them and won a healthy 42% (34). Alcaraz’s backhand return stood up just fine in these two matches.
It was the forehand return that broke.
- Alcaraz Forehand Return = 68%
- Alcaraz Backhand Return = 86%
- Alcaraz Forehand Return = 32%
- Alcaraz Backhand Return = 42%
This is not a new problem for Alcaraz. I wrote about it once before right HERE.
The forehand return out wide in the Deuce court is the real problem. Picture Sinner and Dimitrov slicing first and second serves out wide in the Deuce court to Alcaraz, and too many balls getting wrapped around the frame and spraying long and wide.
9: Serve +1 Forehands
Alcaraz loves to hit Serve +1 forehands. Absolutely dines on this strategy day in and day out. Pump a serve. Crack a forehand. Not this time, however.
Serve +1 Forehands
- Alcaraz = 51%
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 68%
This is a massive red flag for Alcaraz. He was essentially even hitting Serve +1 forehands and Serve +1 backhands. This takes away a lot of his aggression at the start of the point. And for opponents to be dining on forehands makes it so much tougher to break them.
Serve +1 Forehands Won
- Alcaraz = 60%
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 61%
You can see how effective this strategy is. Everyone had a high winning percentage when starting the point this way.
Serve +1 Backhands Won
- Alcaraz = 35%
- Sinner & Dimitrov = 37%
You can see starting the point with a Serve +1 forehand is light years better than starting with a Serve +1 backhand. The problem for Alcaraz is that he started about half (49%) of all his serve points this way, while Sinner and Dimitrov combined for only 32%. That’s a huge advantage for them right out of the gate.
10: Serve & Volley
Neither Sinner nor Dimitrov served and volleyed once against Alcaraz. That’s not the issue.
The problem is that Alcaraz served and volleyed nine times and won seven. What’s the problem, you ask?
The problem is that he had an amazing strategy that won 7/9 – better than literally anything else – and he decided that nine times was enough. Alcaraz should have served and volleyed 20 times, 30 times, or 300 times to take the pressure off other parts of his game, such as hitting too many Serve +1 backhands or underperforming in general with second serves.
Alcaraz needed to do anything to cover the areas of his game that were not working and find something that was. He found it but failed to capitalize on it.
These 10 red flags are the underperforming areas of Alcaraz’s two losses. In some ways, Sinner and Dimitrov simply outplayed Alcaraz. But in other ways, Alcaraz’s level was not there. He was not at the peak of his powers, and his game dropped a level. He was vulnerable, and congratulations to both Sinner and Dimitrov for taking advantage of that.
You are going to have a few days a year when your “A Game” does not turn up. It certainly seems like this happened to Alcaraz in these two matches. But also give credit to Sinner and Dimitrov for taking advantage of the moment and employing the right tactics to secure victory.