Carlos Alcaraz has insisted the strapping on his left leg at the US Open is precautionary, yet he has sparked fresh concerns over his fitness ahead of the final weekend of action in New York.
Alcaraz was in sparkling form as he beat Alexander Zverev in the night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium court on Wednesday, as he played with strapping on his leg once again.
The match against Zverev lasted just two hours and 30 minutes and was not especially demanding, so the defending champions may have expected to be back out on the practice court ahead of his semi-final against Daniil Medvedev on Friday.
Yet the US Open schedule confirmed Alcaraz and his coaching team had not booked a practice court on Thursday.
The practice schedule was loaded with big names, as Novak Djokovic booked a two-hour time slot in the hottest part of the New York day.
Coco Gauff also booked a practice court ahead of her semi-final against Karolina Muchova, while soon-to-be world No 1 Aryna Sabalenka was also booked to have a hit ahead of her clash against Madison Keys.
Yet Alcaraz fans should not be too concerned by his absence on Thursday, as he has started to make a habit of side-stepping training sessions.
“There are days when I dedicate my time to fitness and not tennis,” Alcaraz told the ATP.
“There are a lot of days when I prefer to work on load training and fitness, rather than practise tennis.”
He also skipped a lot of on-court practice days at the French Open earlier this year and offered this explanation when asked why.
“I haven’t been training on the days I haven’t played and it’s worked well,” he confirmed.
“I’m doing things very well and I feel good. Mentally, I’m fresh. Why change things if it’s working?”
Players traditionally take to the practice courts on their ‘off’ days at Grand Slam events, but Alcaraz is bucking trends in more ways than one in tennis and this is another example of him following his own agenda.
The strapping on his left leg has been a concern for his army of fans around the world, as well as tennis lovers hoping to see another Alcaraz clash with Djokovic in Sunday’s US Open final.
Yet Alcaraz has insisted his injury concern in New York is not a big concern, as he made these comments when asked about the strapping on his leg.
“It’s pretty tough playing in a Grand Slam,” he said.
“You play tough matches for two weeks and it’s normal that you get some pains in your body and you have to take care of it. It’s nothing serious. I’m just taking care of it.”
Alcaraz is relishing the prospect of a second successive US Open final and he showed no signs of an injury problem during his straight sets win against Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
“I’m very, very comfortable playing in this court, playing here in New York. I am showing my best level here.
“Last year was very tough as from the fourth round I played five sets to get to the final.
“Here I’ve played just one match that has gone to four sets. I feel great physically and I’m ready to play a great battle with Medvedev in the semi-finals.
“I am more mature now. I grew up a lot since last year.
“Last year was my first semi-final of a Grand Slam. Now this is my fourth one. Now I feel like I am a totally different player. I deal better with the pressure in the big moments. I’m a different person and player.”
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