WATCH: Alcaraz continues to redefine the word "hype" with his textbook-defying tennis in 2022.

The route to Roland Garros victory, one that had looked destined for Carlos Alcaraz only three weeks ago, has endured its twists since the Spanish teen swept to the Mutua Madrid Open title earlier in May. First, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic capitalized on a rest week Alcaraz took to blitz the remaining field in Rome. Then the draw put him in the same half as Djokovic and Nadal, essentially requiring him to recapture his Madrid form by the semifinals.

His five-set thriller against veteran countryman Albert Ramos-Viñolas threatened to be the final straw: after looking invincible in his first match, the No. 6 seed was starting to show signs of buckling under the immense pressure laid atop his not inconsiderably broad shoulders.

How would he fare next against fellow rising star Sebastian Korda, the only man to beat him since his maiden Masters victory in Miami? Looking far more prepared for the task at hand, Alcaraz regained his dominant posture and avenged his Monte Carlo defeat to the 21-year-old American, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach his first of what certainly feels like many fourth rounds at Roland Garros.

It must be said that at 19, Alcaraz occupies an inherently uncomfortable narrative space, where the difference between what he can achieve and what he already has will never be greater. How does a young man with all the signifiers of a double-digit major champion handle purgatory? Where does he find the discipline necessary to resist any urge to, so starts many a viral Tik Tok, “skip to the good part?”

At least for now, he remains firmly entrenched in that illusive nexus of natural talent and hard work, a rarefied air hitherto available to no more than a certain three on the ATP tour.


Opening against Korda under the Court Philippe-Chatrier lights, he converted the first break point of the match to claim the first set, and saved two against his own serve in the second to maintain his edge.

To his credit, Korda kept pressing and gamely saved five set points to keep the pressure on Alcaraz. Too bad Alcaraz counterpunches pressure as well as pace, easing into a two-set lead and thwarting three more break chances Korda engineered early in the third.

A quick note about hype: though access to tennis matches has never been easier or more comprehensive, one is still much more likely to hear about emerging talent before they see for themselves, creating that aforementioned gap between future potential and current ability.

What makes Alcaraz out of step with that familiar achetype is he is among the rare examples where the hype does not, in fact, do the actual product justice. And this is a world in which the pen remains mightier than the sword, where writers are paid for word by hyperbolic word. On paper, Alcaraz is a future Grand Slam champion, a probable all-time great. In person, he makes others in his age group look entirely unworthy of such accolades: blessed with the body of an athlete, the mind of a champion, and a soul of a competitor, yes, Virginia, he really is that good.

So good that it took about as long to meditate on hype itself as it did for Alcaraz to reel off three straight games and score an all but assured lead on Korda, who continued to keep things close thanks to his all-court—but comparatively incomplete—game. To quote pop culture prophet Tiffany “New York” Pollard: “When you have cute next to gorgeous, gorgeous is going to devour cute.” Apply such an analogy to how Korda and Alcaraz approach the net or attempt a drop shot: one’s look like they’ll be quite intimidating someday, while the other’s looks like they’ve already won him five or more majors.

In the meantime, they helped Alcaraz to 5-2, where he then played one last perfect game to book a second week clash with No. 21 seed Karen Khachanov. A net cord brought him to match point, but when you’re Alcaraz, it’s not luck when you can win the next point with an out-of-position backhand down the line. It’s looking, once again, like destiny.