Carlos Alcaraz: Ascending and Impressing
Carolos Alcaraz, the teenage phenom, has been on my radar for quite some time and is currently receiving widespread exposure as the youngest player in the top 100 on the ATP Tour.
Born in El Palmar, Spain, the four-time Challenger titlist made his ATP main draw debut as a wildcard at sixteen at the Rio Open. He stunned countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in three tight sets in the opening round before losing in the next to the Argentine veteran, Federico Coria.
This past January, at the age of seventeen, Alcaraz qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open and reached the second round. He continued to impress throughout the season, winning four games against then world #5 Alexander Zverev at the Mexican Open and defeated Feliciano Lopez and a red-hot Casper Ruud en route to the semis at the Andalucia Open.
Although he was gifted a wildcard, it was not the birthday present he hoped for; Rafa Nadal, the twenty-time grand slam champion, schooled his pupil in the second round before a home crowd at the Madrid Open. In the previous round, still seventeen years of age, he became the youngest match-winner in the history of this Masters 1000 event by breaking the record held by Nadal who was 18.
Alcaraz, an apt student, once again came thru qualies to reach the main draw at the French Open where he took out world #40 and two-time 2021 titlist, Nikoloz Basilashvili before losing in the following round to world #48, Jan-Lennard Struff.
He received direct entry to the Championships due to his dramatically improved ranking. He demonstrated mental as well as physical fortitude in defeating Yasutaka Uchiyama in five sets before losing in straights in the second round to world #2, Daniil Medvedev.
He gained valuable experience and confidence in taking seven games off Medvedev as he claimed his first tour title three weeks later at the Croatia Open. On the dirt in Umag, the 18-year-old dispatched Lucas Pouille, Filip Krajinovic, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas before dismissing former world #7, Richard Gasquet in the final.
Under the guidance of countryman and former world #1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, his future looks exceedingly fruitful. Alcaraz is currently playing on hardcourts in Winston-Salem, having reached the quarterfinals after outlasting world #39 Marton Fucsovics in three.
Alcaraz, currently ranked #54, will have additional pressure as he is expected to defeat his next opponent, world #66 Marcos Giron. While highlighting a player’s potential and progression is informative and foreseeable, the glare of the media spotlight and the weight of expectation can be counterproductive.
Incredibly, he began the season ranked #141 and after this week, will enter the top fifty. Comparisons to Nadal are inevitable but it appears this poised young man has a clear sense of self and a well-constructed game plan for his career.
The US Open, just days away, may not be on the youngster’s mind as he is still competing in North Carolina, but the draw is out; his first-round opponent is the 26-year-old lefty and #26 seed, Cam Norrie.
The Brit finally won his first career title earlier this season in Los Cabos on hardcourt so is looking to make inroads at the season’s final slam. This will be their first career meeting and one to watch.