Carlos Alcaraz has spoken of his excitement as he prepares to make his bow at the 2024 Australian Open, while he admitted he “didn’t know” he could become the top ranked man on tour.
The Spaniard, who missed last year’s tournament with a hamstring injury, is seeded second in the men’s draw and plays Richard Gasquet in the first round.
The Wimbledon champion has not played a competitive match since the ATP Finals in November, but the 20-year-old’s star quality means he is still one of the favourites for the title.
He has played two exhibition matches in preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year, beating Novak Djokovic in Riyadh on December 27 before losing to Alex de Minaur in a charity match in Melbourne last week.
Speaking exclusively to Eurosport’s Barbara Schett, Alcaraz said: “I’m really excited to play here in Australia again. I missed it last year, watching all the matches.”
Djokovic, the 10-time and defending Australian Open champion, will be Alcaraz’s main rival for the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, but there is another obstacle that the youngster will have to overcome – the absence of his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero.
“Juan Carlos had surgery,” Alcaraz explained.
“But it’s something that can happen to anyone. He’s recovering and hopefully [I’ll have] him for the rest of the season. [We’ll talk] every day. He’s not here, but almost. We text everyday, before the matches. I’m almost with him.”
Last year was another big step in the Spaniard’s already glittering career as he added the Wimbledon crown to his list of accolades.
He won 65 of his 77 matches in the calendar year, lifting six titles.
He yo-yoed between world No. 1 and No. 2, but becoming the sport’s top ranked was never something that Alcaraz had thought he could do.
“I didn’t know that I could become world No.1,” he added.
“One of the best things I can do is not think about the points, not think about defending tournaments, and just focus on being myself, playing my tennis and improving the things I have to improve.”