Alcaraz Praise Fest in Vegas – The Netflix Buzz

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Bill Simons

NETFLIX SLAM: Las Vegas staged a huge Formula 1 race in November and then hosted the Super Bowl. On Sunday, it was tennis’ turn, as the Mandalay Bay Resort presented the Netflix Slam between the iconic Rafa Nadal, 37, and the rising superstar, Carlos Alcaraz. 

The still-glorious-after-all-these-years Nadal won the first set of the glitzy exhibition over his fellow Spaniard. And he made it crystal clear that he still has game, as he dazzled the sellout crowd of 9,489 fans with a breathless no-look skyhook overhead winner and a running down-the-line laser forehand passing shot. Plus, Rafa saved four match points. 

But, in the end, Alcaraz prevailed, 3-6, 6-4, 14-12, and drew a lavish torrent of praise from a cast of all-star commentators.

Sure, Alcaraz hasn’t won a tourney since he prevailed in Cincinnati in August, and recently he’s struggled with a bum ankle. Still, Jim Courier noted that his footspeed and live arm were magic. 

Prakash Amritraj said the 20-year old was arguably a more complete player than Rafa, Roger or Novak had been at this same point of their careers.

While reflecting on Carlos, who won the 2022 US Open and the 2023 Wimbledon, Andy Roddick quipped, “It’s like he won two Slams for practice. I can’t wait to see the rest of his career. I don’t think there’s a ceiling.” 

Andre Agassi went further, saying, “On paper, athletically Carlos comes in with the four most dominant shots in the game of tennis…But does he have the ability to contain it day in and day out?…If you look at the rpms he puts on the ball maybe it’s more than Rafa’s. If you look at his defensive skills maybe they’re even better than Novak’s. If you look at his touch and feel, they’re possibly Federer standard or higher…When you look at these parts of the game that he puts on the table, his biggest issue might be having too many options.”

Andre went on, suggesting that Alcaraz’s game “was like being the longest driver in golf, hitting the most fairways, hitting the most greens and having the least amount of putts. It’s a big deal.” 

Andre asked, “How can you be that nice and humble, and still dominate this sport?”

TENNIS NEEDS UNDILUTED PASSION AND DRAMA: Much controversy ensued after Andrey Rublev was abruptly tossed out of his semifinal match in Dubai for yelling in the face of a Russian linesman over a controversial call. Commentator Mark Petchey said that tennis should think twice before getting rid of its line judges. He said such a move could sanitize the game too much and make it too clinical. “For all those that want all-electronic line calling, just remember that undiluted passion and drama writes headlines. There are news channels all over the world talking about Dubai that wouldn’t be there today if we had all electronic line calling. Also, nobody died.”

SAM QUERREY WILL TUCK YOU IN: As word got out that Carlos Alcaraz and Rafa were giving pricey tennis lessons, retired ATP veteran Sam Querrey cheekily proposed a counter-offer.

He said, “If you want to hit with Alcaraz or Nadal it’s $150 grand. If you want to hit with Isner and myself, it’s $2,000. It’s the steal of the century. But let me tell you what you get from me for $150 grand. I’ll walk your dog. I’ll teach you how to fold laundry. I’ll even give you a psychological class on how not to win a major. I’ll do your taxes. I’ll make you some lunch. I’ll teach you how to make amazing social media content. I’ll even tuck you in at night. And since you won’t be winning a Slam, I’ll teach you the next best thing – how to play pickleball.”

FRENCH LAUNDRY: Inside Tennis first encountered Querrey as a junior doing his laundry by Lenglen Stadium at the French Open, and we can reassure you he’s got a way with softeners. And while we’re at it, our favorite laundry story revolves around the British cyclist Jamie Staff. The Olympic gold medalist explained, “I was in the Olympic village [in Beijing in 2008] and spotted Rafa Nadal in the laundry room. I realized I was standing right next to him, and I didn’t bother him, but he was shoving all his colors and whites in together. I really wanted to say, ‘Dude, you’re going to have a nightmare with that. You can’t just put the whole bag in — there are reds in with whites.’ But what can you do?”

BACK-TO-BACK: In Cabo, Mexico, Jordan Thompson became the first player to win singles and doubles titles at the same ATP Tour event since his fellow Aussie, Nick Kyrgios, did it at Washington DC in 2022. After 11 years on tour this was Thompson’s first ATP crown and he won the doubles title at 2:57 AM…Alex de Minaur defended his title in Acapulco. After winning in Mexico, de Minaur traveled north to America and saw his British girlfriend Katie Boulter win the San Diego Open…Casper Rudd lost back-to-back finals in Mexico to Aussies De Minaur and Jordan Thompson…Argentinian Sebastian Baez won in Rio and then Santiago, Chile…When Iga Swiatek again won the Qatar Open she became the first player to win the same tourney for the third year in a row since Serena won the Miami Open in 2015…Rafa Nadal, 37, has won 22 slams. His son Rafa Jr., age 17 months, is already bopping a tennis ball with a mini racket. Watch out, world!  

ACAPULCO STRONG: The powerful Category Five hurricane, Otis, blasted Acapulco on October 25th. Still, the city bounced back and last week staged its annual tournament in a gleaming stadium.

UKRAINE STRONG: After losing in the San Diego Open final to Katie Boulter, Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk said, “Glory to Ukraine. I don’t want to make you feel sad, sorry. I want to say thank you to my family back home. It’s been difficult the last couple of nights for Ukraine…and I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But there is nobody who sacrificed more for my career…I want to dedicate this small trophy to them.”

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: After winning in Dubai, veteran WTA warrior Jasmine Paolini noted how the breakthrough of Aussie Open champ Jannik Sinner has helped sportsmen and women in her native Italy.  She said, “We athletes are a bit snubbed in Italy… it’s a cultural issue, profound and complex. It will still take a long time to resolve it…In any case, the wave of popularity that was brought by Sinner did us girls some good, too.”

TIME WILL TELL: Just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Daniil Medvedev said it would take ten years before we knew who was right and wrong in the war. In February, Rafa, who had just signed on as an Ambassador for tennis in Saudi Arabia, said that if things don’t change in Saudi Arabia in 10 or 15 years, he would have to say he was wrong for aligning with the Saudis.

LET MURRAY BE MURRAY: Andy Murray strongly signaled his retirement, by saying, “I don’t plan on playing much past this summer.” The 36-year-old said he was bored by the question of his retirement and wouldn’t answer more questions on the topic. His mother Judy tweeted, “Every single press conference he is asked the same question. When he started on @atptour it was ‘ah but when r u going to win Wimbledon?’ Every single time. Let him enjoy whatever time is left of his career. He is 50 in the world, has a metal hip, a bipartite patella + 4 kids.”

SOUTH AMERICA POWER: Andy Murray called for South America to have its own dedicated swing on the tennis tour, with its own masters tourney. 

TOUGH TIMES FOR TSITSIDOSA: Stefanos Tsitsipas has dropped out of the top ten for the first time since 2019, and his girlfriend, Paula Badosa, is struggling with severe back problems that some say are career threatening.

BIG GOAT ON CAMPUS: During his stay in LA, Novak Djokovic could have practiced exclusively at private courts, but his agent called UCLA and arranged for him to work out on the Bruins’ venerable Westwood courts, where the likes of Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors used to play.

According to longtime Bruin coach Billy Martin, when word got out that Novak was practicing, about 2,000 people showed up.

Djokovic also made an appearance at a star-studded Lakers-Denver Nuggets game where he greeted his fellow Serbian superstar Nikalo Jokic. BTW: Djokovic isn’t the only tennis pro who’s been around UCLA’s tennis courts recently. Former Aussie Open finalist Jennifer Brady is an assistant coach for Stella Sampras’ women’s team.

BOOMING BORIS: It’s as if Boris Becker is catching up for lost time after being imprisoned for ten months. Among other things, the German got a huge payment for an interview, signed up as a Eurosport commentator, had a stint as Holger Rune’s coach, became embroiled in a Twitter feud with Nick Kyrgios and announced that he’s getting married to his longtime girlfriend, who’s 23 years younger. 

TRUTH MATTERS: As reported by Colette Lewis, Virginia coach Andres Pedroso went against the interest of his team when he overruled his own player and the chair ump in a tiebreak that would determine the doubles point against Ohio State. The Buckeyes went on to win the tiebreak and they won the match 7-0.

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