Carlos Alcaraz rose to a career-high ranking of No. 6 in the world courtesy of winning the Madrid Masters 1000 last week.
What makes this 19-year-old so special? What does he do a little bit differently than other players?
Here’s one thing that stood out to me, and I bet it will help with your own game as well! He plays his forehands and backhands down the middle of the court a little more than his opponents. In Madrid, he hit a higher percentage of his groundstrokes down the middle third of the court in all five matches compared to his opponents. Here’s the data, courtesy of Hawk-Eye.
Alcaraz hit 21% of his groundstrokes right down the middle third of the court, which equates to one every 4.7 shots. His opponents only hit the ball down the middle of the court 16% of the time, which is one every 6.3 shots. The biggest margin was in his first match against Basilashvili, where Alcaraz hit 26% down the middle while Basilashvili hit just 16% down the middle. It’s important to note Alcaraz played two lefties (Nadal and Norrie), which will throw a curveball into the wide data. The Hawk-Eye graphic vs. Basilashvili is below.
2022 Madrid: Alcaraz v Basilashvili Groundsrtroke Direction
So the burning question is why? Why does Carlitos go down the middle of the court more?
There are five main benefits:
- It takes away angles to be attacked. Deep down the middle is a marvelous place to hit a ball and not be on the dead run on the next shot.
- It also baits opponents to go for an angle that is not really there. The natural angle from the middle is down the middle. But players are obsessed with direction and with less angle to work with, shots from the middle often go wide.
- Big shots go to big targets. It’s also a great idea to unload with a heavy ball (power & spin) right down the middle of the court because there is no singles sideline where you can miss.
- It’s also a good place for Carlitos to defend to. Yes, the golden rule is defense goes cross, but if you find yourself under pressure in the middle third of the court, then just play deep down the middle third to try and get back to neutral in the point.
- Playing down the middle is a great option if your opponent is really good at creating angles on the court. That’s much tougher to do from the middle of the court.
With Roland Garros looming, let’s keep an eye on this stat and see if the trend continues in Paris.
All the best,