Poor old Jeremy Chardy. Compete against the best in the business, they said. “What game is experience to youthful exuberance,” they said. The 36-year-old journeyman announced his retirement from singles ahead of Wimbledon and endured the kind of glamor match-up athletes in their final years that they either love or loathe. Unfortunately, world number one Carlos Alcaraz gave him no other choice for Chardy in this matter.
For a long time it seemed like there was going to be a demolition task on Court 1. In fact, it seemed genuinely plausible that a triple bagel — not equaled in a main draw Grand Slam match since 1993 — was on the cards. Alcaraz, tennis’ next prodigy and the dominant force, completed the first set in just 22 minutes. The Roger Federer fanfare hadn’t even started over on Center Court.
In the end, thanks largely to Chardy’s brave persistence in his last singles set, the world No. 1 had to settle for seven goals conceded en route to a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 win. A few explosive moments in the third set could come in handy over the course of the fortnight. Not every point will be in his favor with a positive score, especially not on grass at Alcaraz’s only third Wimbledon.
The Spaniard from Murcia meets another Frenchman in round two, be it Alexandre Muller or Arthur Rinderknech. Crucially, he gave his next opponent and virtually every player in his half of the draw a head start as the rain would wipe out most of Tuesday’s games. Prepared and developed further under the safety net of the Court 1 roof, Alcaraz will receive its full day of rest. Don’t underestimate how important this can be.
The world No. 1, who has taken the tennis world by storm over the past 12 months with his thrilling US Open win last year and a captivating surge in form on the clay in 2023, was just five years old when Chardy made his debut in the main draw was at SW19 in 2008. After living in the UK for eight years with his British wife Susan, the Frenchman confirmed over the weekend that this would be the tournament to say goodbye to. Against the top.
Because that is exactly what Alcaraz is. At just 20 years old, he doesn’t seem to suffer from nervousness or caution. Everything is executed with maximum power, from the pin-sharp concentration between points to the exertion with each sprint at full power and the relentless power of his groundstrokes on both sides. A forehand hit here, a backhand release there.
It’s knocked off – and then there’s Carlos Alcaraz. The power is on a whole different level even for this new breed of hard-hitting ground racquet in men’s tennis. So much so that his grunts as each ball is hit are distinctly authentic.
But that’s not what makes him a compelling draw for fans around the world. While it may be the foundation of his game, it doesn’t make all the difference. This is something you cannot coach, which is the process of being unpredictable without being ineffective. It’s about making the most of your impulsiveness.
It is the drop shot, executed so perfectly and regularly, that sealed a double break in the first set. It’s the flick of the wrist behind the back in mid-air — if you haven’t seen last year’s highlight video from New York, check it out on YouTube — when a standard backhand would be more orthodox. It’s the half-volley squash shot that he uses to pull his opponent past the net. Even an accidental serve-and-volley in the third set, though unsuccessful, keeps everyone in the arena on their toes.
It should be said that not every shot succeeds. But for the showman – a title Alcaraz might not necessarily want but enjoys nonetheless – the thrill of the spectacle is almost as important as the result. Almost, not quite.
One could easily say that this unpredictability is due to the context of the game. Alcaraz always seemed in full control, undeniably dominant in his shots and strutting around the pitch. Even when he got broken in the third set, he broke right back. But as we’ve seen in majors lately, no matter the occasion, the showman doesn’t let up.
Alcaraz sealed the match with two aces: one in the T, one outside. It was a worthy conclusion, encompassing his entire repertoire of breathtaking recordings. A nearly complete arsenal of hits, even at this early stage in his career. And while Novak Djokovic remains the favorite for the title based on his record to date, there is no doubt who the No. 1 contender is. And in those difficult moments, Alcaraz’s moody instincts – his most important ingredient – may be what gets him across the finish line.