Carlos Alcaraz the incredible hulk, that’s how Evan Gaudreu sees the young Spanish star. What drills did he do to develop this game?
Carlos Alcaraz the Incredible Hulk
If you see my gram page, I throw a pic of the Incredible Hulk every time I post about Alcaraz.
The rumor is that Alcaraz is leaving the tour to pursue an acting career as Bruce Banner, but in Spain, they call him El Blancho, and their version is less based on the Incredible Hulk and more based on Tromaville’s “Toxic Avenger.”
They call him the “Lost Avenger.” Think about that! Why was Toxic Avenger not in the Avengers?
Yes, this match is against Brooksby. I’m not going to mention how Moderna is a major sponsor at the US Open. I’m not going to talk about what I think of the players using HGH (Human Growth Hormone). And I’m not going to talk about the use of EPO on tour. But I want to talk about Carlos and the “power sets” he uses on his forehand side.
If you watch Alcaraz play anyone with no pace or lack of pace, he locks into his “power sets.” All they are is blasting forehands from each box location (after you cut the baseline into “fours.”).
Yes, he can back it up with his serve and his volleys. His slice is getting solid. His droppers have been backbreakers.
And what you’ll notice is how he sets up his power with his backhand.
The Right Mental Reps
Imagine money wasn’t an issue for you, or you had loads of talent and were picked up by an academy which is essentially the same thing.
Imagine you were built enough to keep up with the pros at age 15 (similar to how horses are groomed and brought along). Now imagine being able to play Futures and Challengers (and win matches), but all you were doing on your backhand side was hitting “defensive” locations only to set up your forehand.
You are going to get nasty.
And you will be developing a lot of “Mental Reps” like Muscle memory to fall back on when the time comes to “play a bit safer.”
Side note about mental reps. If you or your student or your kid gets away with “pushing” for too long and builds too many “pushy” mental reps, that will be a tough…a very tough habit to break. Many kids have parents who follow the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mentality.” Their mind will go against anything you might say. And they will be unwilling to change what works.
Just, win, win, win.
Back to the Power sets.
There are singular power sets. I call them ‘kick-outs.’ I’m sure a lot of teaching pros or coaches use these. I don’t see it being used that much in my area (but like I said in the podcast, Western Massachusetts is the Graveyard for tennis).
When I was in the juniors, I wanted my Coach (D1 top 70 in the country) to feed me kick-outs, and he laughed and said, “Why would you ever want to run around your backhand to hit forehands.”
What a turkey.
That was 1992.
Here’s how you work on Single power sets.
Start on the Deuce side sideline and have someone feed you balls to the middle-ish part of the court. Kick-out from the sideline and “Crank” a forehand to the Ad corner.
1) Get a feel for it first.
2) Do sets of ’20s in a row (breaking for 20-30 secs and hitting the bricks). The sets can be based on the level but don’t baby the kid.
3) Start hitting blocks of 5 in a row to a location (and repeat to 3x’s 5 in a row at least.
4) Really, you want to do 10s in a row. If you make a mistake at 9, do not pass “GO”…and go directly to jail….duh….start over. These drills are “real” mental toughness training, not reading Jim Loehr’s books.
5) Work up to 15s and 20s in a row…(15s are like a top in your region, 20s is like training for National level and above).
6) Forgot. Switch up the feeds to topspin.
If you want to work on inside outs, start at the hash mark in the center of the court. Push the student to make more space between the feed and the contact.
It’s sometimes funny watching parents try to feed these drills in. They feed so irregularly, and there is no continuity.
The key is no “downtime” during the drill. Some juniors miss one shot and go full Boss Baby. But part of their tantrums is stalling, and the parents enable their behavior.
In a nutshell, “Doubles” are two-ball Bangers. Like double feed the drill. One to the forehand corner, one to the center. These are “old-school” but are still effective.
Use your imagination.
They can be done from anywhere.
Beyond the basics, what’s important is hitting locations to your opponent’s side of the court that yield the ball you want. I thought everyone thought like that, but that mindset is disappearing and replaced by focusing on the technique.
Everything these days is about aesthetics (parents). Look at the parking lot at junior tourneys—Mercedes, Maserati, BMW, and so on. And nine out of ten tennis parents can’t even play club tennis. They masquerade around the tourney, impersonating tennis players.
I joke about these parents. They have the Maserati, but I am the Maserati disguised as an AMC Gremlin.
There are two things I don’t like.
The cold and people who wear Mickey Mouse sweatshirts (not at Disney).
But I like when “Goldmember” is announcing the tennis matches (not sure who he is).
Fire up your mentality!
Players need the “fire” mentality to get the power on the groundies. For instance, I had a lot of anger as a kid, and when hitting the ball, I wanted to smoke it. Whenever I hit a tennis ball, baseball, etc, I intended to break it.
This reminds me of a recent book I read by Cameron Hanes, “Endure.” He’s a bow guy and an ultra-marathoner. He talks about going to hunting areas that no one will go to. The point is that he makes it happen regardless of his pain and suffering to get there. It’s a recurring theme in the book.
You can’t teach that.
Like John Rambo.
(I just bought that book. “First Blood”).
I’ve seen the movie a thousand times.
It’s weird, the stuff that happens over a lifetime, and you think about why you do the things you do or things you “got over.”
When I was 18, my “Dad’s” car broke down on the highway in the middle of the winter, and I waited for help. After 30 minutes, I said, “Screw it,” and got out of the car and walked a couple of miles in -15 temps.
What choice did I have?
I also remember the lady’s face in the pizza shop I walked into. She grabbed me and put me in front of the oven. It was like, WTF? Ten minutes later, I could finally talk.
I always thought (unrealistically) that when I had kids, I would make them endure rough situations.
Then I had four girls.