Based on his superb results earlier in the year, we knew that Carlos Alcaraz is an extremely talented player. The question was always when, and not if, he would win majors and ascend to number one. But with his win in New York on Sunday, Carlos exceeded even the most optimistic fans, securing his first major title and the world number 1 ranking at the US Open. Seventeen years, four months and seven days ago, Rafael Nadal won the first of his 22 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros in 2005. Carlos Alcaraz reached the summit at 19 years, four months and one week. Rafael Nadal, with 19 years and two days. The player from Murcia, Alcaraz, is already number 1 in the world. The Mallorcan would debut at the top of the ranking more than three years after that victory, on 18 August 2008.
Almost at the dawn of the millennium, the context of tennis was different. Roger Federer had established himself as the dominant force in the competition. He was already champion of Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and the US Open. Although it was his debut in the tournament, Nadal was coming into the tournament with good prospects. He had won Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, the latter after an unforgettable final with Guillermo Coria. In Paris, he knocked down Federer in the semi-finals and won the final against Mariano Puerta.
Promise to Results
“I saw Nadal for the first time in the Manuel Alonso, the Championship of Spain child, in Vic, and already impressed by his attitude, by the desire. Let’s say he was doing the same as now but with 12 years. The same thing happened not so long ago, when Alcaraz played the tournament at the Ciudad de la Raqueta. He was a kid, and everyone wanted to see him,” says Juan Bautista Avendaño, a member of the team of captains of the Davis Cup in 2004, when Nadal surprised with his victory in the final against the United States, against Andy Roddick.
Alcaraz is a player with extraordinary resources, whose proposal will have to find a response from his rivals. Unlike Nadal, who grew up to face Federer and later Djokovic, the tennis player from El Palmar shows a natural exuberance. He has taken the lead and is already the reference. “Technically, I have the feeling that he is better than Nadal at his age”, says Jordi Arrese, also a member of that Davis Cup team of captains along with José Perlas and Avendaño.
The Spaniard threatens to devour the generation of men like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, who have been on the circuit for a few seasons now without the prize of a major. “Nadal started out as a clay-court specialist who grew up on other surfaces because he knew otherwise he would have no chance in Australia, Wimbledon and New York. He has worked hard to be more aggressive and to standardise his game on any stage. Alcaraz also grew up on clay, but he already has the skills to be successful on a fast court, as he has shown.
While very different in their conception of the game, they share a huge mental toughness and a great commitment to tennis since they were kids. “Like Nadal, Alcaraz is also convinced of what he is capable of. He puts pressure on himself with his own statements, a symptom of his powerful head. Despite Alcaraz’s impressive track record, it is still far too early to truly start comparing him to Nadal. But then again, the tennis world would not be surprised if we are witnessing the ascent of one of the next greatest players of all time.