Tennis’s golden boy Carlos Alcaraz may have breezed into the Australian Open quarter-finals, but was left stumped when asked to name female players he enjoys watching on tour.
Wimbledon champion Alcaraz recorded a 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday night in Melbourne and, after barely breaking a sweat in the third set, may have thought he could relax.
Then Jim Courier stepped on court to interview him and it got awkward. Alcaraz seemed much more comfortable recounting his pre-match routine of eating sushi than he did coming up with a single women’s tennis player who he rates.
Courier began by asking: “Men’s, women’s, wheelchair tennis, it doesn’t matter, who are your favourite players to watch when you have spare time?”
“Well I’m a huge fan of tennis,” Alcaraz, 20, replied. “I like to watch every match if I can. But I love watching play Daniil Medvedev, Novak [Djokovic], [Jannik] Sinner as well.
“Those guys, I like to watch, because every time they step on the court, they put their best level and, as a huge fan of tennis, I like to watch a pretty good, high level. And those are the best players in the world I like to watch.”
Courier did not let him off easy though, and followed up with: “I’m going to put you on the spot, what about WTA?”
Alcaraz after his win
Courier: “Who do you like to watch?”
Carlos: “Daniil, Novak, Sinner”
Courier: “What about WTA?”
Carlos: “I watch WTA as well… When I can obviously. When I turn the tv on. (Smiling)If it’s WTA, ATP, whatever, I like to watch
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) January 22, 2024
“Well, I watch WTA as well,” Alcaraz said vaguely, before pausing and laughing nervously. The crowd could sense his discomfort, and laughed along as he tried to dig himself out of the question: “No, I mean, when I can obviously. When I turn the TV on, if it is WTA, ATP, whatever, I like to watch it obviously.”
Alcaraz is still getting to grips with conducting interviews in English, his second language, so cannot be expected to deliver note-perfect answers every time. But after easily reeling off a stream of male rivals he regularly tunes in to watch play, it was notable that he failed to name any top women’s players.
It marked a painful end to what had been an incredibly straightforward night for the world No 2, to reach the last eight for the first time in Melbourne.
Earlier in their interview, Courier asked Alcaraz what was working for him on court and he replied: “I think, everything.”
Few could disagree, as the Spaniard was in rip-roaring form against Serbia’s Kecmanovic, who was playing in the fourth round of a major for only the second time.
After a tight first set, the jeopardy fizzled away from this match and Alcaraz ran away with it. He hit 43 winners in all, and only 19 unforced errors to finish inside two hours.
Elsewhere, though Alcaraz may not be following it closely, the women’s draw at this tournament continued to throw up chaotic results.
Only seven seeds progressed into the second week in Melbourne, the top half of the draw especially thrown into disarray since world No 1 Iga Swiatek’s shock dismissal on Saturday.
Now that section of the draw is guaranteed to produce a surprise first-time finalist. Czech teenager Linda Noskova benefited from Elina Svitolina’s injury retirement midway through their first set on Monday, and will next face qualifier Dayana Yastremska, who outplayed two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in her match.
Meanwhile Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya – whose previous best at a major was the second round – and 12th seed Zheng Quinwen completed the quarter-final line-up.
In the bottom half, reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka and US Open winner Coco Gauff are the favourites for the title, and remain poised to meet in the semi-final if they can each win their respective matches on Tuesday.