At just 19 years of age, Carlos Alcaraz is the latest export to come off the endlessly talented tennis conveyor belt in Spain.
Moulded by the gut-wrenching brick and shale clay courts of Murcia in Spain’s southwest, Alcaraz’s rise to prominence draws striking similarity to his compatriot Rafa Nadal.
He etched himself into the history books this week as he cracked the top five in the ATP Rankings, becoming the second-youngest player in this century to do so, and the eighth-youngest of all-time. Since 2000, only all-time grand slam title leader Rafael Nadal achieved this feat at a younger age when he was a budding young 18-year-old back in 2005.
JUST. AMAZING.@carlosalcaraz | @hamburgopen | #HamburgOpen pic.twitter.com/Vjeje7oU14
— ATP Tour (@atptour) July 24, 2022
Youngest Players to Break the ATP Top 5 since 2000
|Rafael Nadal||No. 5||May 2005||18y, 11m, 6d|
|Carlos Alcaraz||No. 5||July 2022||19y, 2m, 20d|
|Novak Djokovic||No. 5||April 2007||19y, 11m, 8d|
|Lleyton Hewitt||No. 5||June 2001||20y, 4m, 1d|
|Alexander Zverev||No. 4||September 2017||20y, 4m, 22d|
After storming to four ATP titles in 2022 (two 500’s in Rio and Barcelona, as well as two 1000’s in Miami and Madrid), the tennis world has truly woken up to the supreme talents he brings to every tournament. Many former players and avid fans have tried to hazard a guess at who he most resembles; the aggressive-ness of peak Novak in 07-08, the footwork and speed of Rafa, or maybe even the overhead and all-court game of Rodger.
As he continues to add more and more world-beating attributes to his repertoire, it is becoming clearer that Alcaraz is all of those rolled into one. Of course, he has some way to go in refining his game and calibrating the risk vs caution to better manage high-stakes matches, but the potential for grand slam dominance is plain to see.
His form has been imperious this season, losing just once at ATP 500 level having claimed titles in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona as mentioned.
From WAYYY back 🔥
Just enormous from @carlosalcaraz!@hamburgopen pic.twitter.com/1PugL2o9GY
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 23, 2022
His 14 game winning streak came to an end in Hamburg this week after a shock defeat to first-time champion Lorenzo Musetti, while hopes of a sixth straight ATP final win were also ended.
Despite this, his season highlights remain hugely impressive and the defeat in Germany is but a minor blip on his way to the very top. He swept aside 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini in Brazil as well as number four-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas in Spain, and an almost impeccable 19-2 record on clay in 2022 makes him a formidable opponent when translating to slower surfaces like grass.
Can he Emulate This Era’s Big Three?
His grand slam record is certainly strong given the calibre of the current cohort of young and veteran players, but mutterings of a potential career as fruitful as the ‘big three’ still leaves a lot to be desired. Federer was Wimbledon champion at 21, Nadal clinched his first of 14 Roland Garros’ at 19, while Djokovic disrupted the Swede and Spaniard’s grand slam monopoly at just 20 years of age.
Two separate quarter-final appearances, the first of which coming in 2021 at the US Open at just 18, before reaching this year’s final eight at the French Open, in which he lost to number two-ranked Alexander Zverev, highlight a hunger to reach the dizzying heights of the tennis greats.
We expect big things from the enigmatic teenager next season, and his career projection can only go one way after such an explosive 2022 – maybe a first grand slam could well be on the cards.