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Carlos Alcaraz: Changing of the guard

Since 2004, three players have dominated men's tennis with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic spurring each other on in a fierce rivalry that has seen them each claim at least 20 Grand Slam titles.

However, 41-year-old Federer finally announced his retirement last year, and with Nadal and Djokovic now into their late 30's - a changing of the guard could be imminent.

Many have tried yet failed to break the stranglehold of that illustrious trio down the years, but age ultimately catches up with everybody and, in rising star Carlos Alcaraz, there is a ready-made replacement to take over the mantle.

Despite being only 20 years of age, it is evident there is something very special about Alcaraz, whose maiden Grand Slam title at last season's US Open was further evidence that he is ready to lead the way for the younger brigade.

The Spanish star has been motivated by the achievements of his legendary compatriot Nadal and his recent exploits ensure he will head to this month's French Open as the world number one.

With Nadal, a 14-time winner of the Paris Grand Slam, sidelined through injury, Spanish supporters will be hoping Alcaraz can capitalise and he is 5/4 to go on and be crowned champion in the French capital for the first time.

Alcaraz is tennis' rising force

What2023 French Open
WhereParis, France
WhenSunday 28th May - Sunday 11th June 2023
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming and Eurosport
OddsMen's Outright: Carlos Alcaraz 5/4, Novak Djokovic 15/8, Holger Rune 7/1, Stefanos Tsitsipas 8/1, Jannik Sinner 14/1

Alcaraz has emerged as the most promising tennis player since Nadal, Federer and Djokovic and many feel it is only a matter of time until the Spanish superstar takes the game by storm.

Hailing from Spain, it is unsurprising that Nadal is his idol, but few could have envisaged comparisons being struck between the pair so early on in Alcaraz's career.

But that is because Alcaraz has become an instant hit on the ATP Tour and last year's US Open win became his first Grand Slam title in what was only his eighth attempt in the main draw of a major.

That made him the youngest man to top the singles rankings at just 19 years and four months of age and he is the first teenager to do so in the Open Era.

Alcaraz has already won 10 ATP Tour-level singles titles, which not only includes his victory at the US Open, but four Masters 1000 successes as well, having won twice in Madrid as well as in Miami and Indian Wells.

The 20-year-old is already considered the most dynamic player on the ATP Tour and his speed and unwavering aggression in both defensive and offensive situations make him a formidable opponent for anybody.

Alcaraz's game is already so effective and complete, but as he matures he will only become more clinical and efficient, something that spells trouble for those hoping to spoil the celebrations.

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Spanish youngster to take some stopping in Paris

Alcaraz may have won his maiden Grand Slam title on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in September 2022, but clay is considered to be the surface in which the Spaniard is at his most devastating.

Seven of the 10 titles he has claimed so far in his career have come on the slower terrain, three of which have come this season in Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Madrid.

Alcaraz was forced to miss the opening Grand Slam of the season in Australia, but he has lost only three of his 28 competitive matches in 2023 and will be keen to make up for lost time in Paris.

The Murcia man is the top seed in Paris and is fortunate that his childhood hero Nadal, who has made the tournament his own in recent times with 14 titles, is injured and will not defend his crown.

Alcaraz could only make the quarter-final in France last year, losing out in four sets to Alexander Zverev, but if he can handle the pressure then he is evidently the player to beat at 5/4.

Alcaraz insists Wimbledon is no weakness

Despite being yet to win a grass-court title and having failed to go beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon, Alcaraz believes he can become a great player on the surface.

It is still early days for Alcaraz and he has had limited opportunities to show how effective he can be on grass which, like clay, is such a specialist surface.

There is definite hope that Alcaraz can adapt and no reason why he can't soon be crowned champion at the All England Club, especially when 36-year-old Djokovic calls time on his playing career.

The Spanish youngster is 4/1 to win at Wimbledon this summer, but downing 22-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic in his pursuit of a fifth-straight win at SW19 will be no easy feat.

Instead, it is more likely that Alcaraz defends his US Open title at the end of the campaign, which he is 7/2 to do.

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