How Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest male tennis player in history to be world number 1
- BBC News World
It was a long-awaited revolution in tennis: this Sunday, in four sets, the 19-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz beat the Norwegian Casper Ruud and won the US Open crown.
With this, Alcaraz broke several marks at the same time: He became the youngest male tennis player to win a Grand Slam since Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005.
He is also the youngest tennis player to win the US Open since Pete Sampras.
But above all he became the youngest player in history in reach number 1 in the Professional Tennis Players Association rankings (ATP). (In the women’s ranking, that of the WTA, the youngest was Martina Hingis, who was number 1 at 16).
For many analysts, this promotion was coming, especially after the great season he had in 2022, winning 5 titles, including the Madrid and Miami Opens.
His playing style, full of creativity, irrefutable technique and mentality winnerled him to be considered the heir to the so-called ‘big three’: Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
“Over the past two weeks he has shown his talent and his heart to win over legions of new fans, showing why he is considered by many to be the player best suited to replace Nadal, Djokovic and Federer at the top of the men’s game during years to come,” wrote BBC tennis journalist Jonathan Jurejko.
Currently, Alcaraz doesn’t seem to be chasing the ratings of the three best players in historybut rather enjoy what you get.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, to be world number one and a Grand Slam champion,” Alcaraz said after winning the title in New York on Sunday.
“It’s something I’ve worked very hard for. It’s very, very special“, he pointed.
But how did a “spaghetti-skinny” teenager become the future of world tennis?
“All the ingredients for a good salad”
Most of the tennis players on the circuit were unanimous in underlining the talent of Alcaraz.
For example, the Croatian Marin Cilicwho is number 16 in the ATP rankings, pointed out that “in terms of creativity, it’s the best“.
However, despite innate talent from the start of his tennis career, he hasn’t always been the physical prowess seen recently in New York.
Alcaraz was born in El Palmar, a town near Murcia in southeastern Spain, which is known as a production center farm that exports throughout Europe.
There he began to show his talent, especially at the tennis school run by his father, Carlos Alcaraz Ferrero.
However, when the local tennis scene began to notice his son’s qualities, Alcaraz Sr. sent him to the closest place he could fulfill his potential: the tennis academy of a former number one. world champion and winner of a Roland Garros title. Carlos Ferrero.
But there, the first impression was not the best.
“Carlos had to work on his physique a lot because he made jokes about looking like spaghetti,” Ferrero said in a BBC interview.
He was 15 when he started with Ferrero. It didn’t take long for them to realize all the resources Carlos had on his arms and legs.
“We decided to work on all the shots and thus put a particular emphasis on his shot selection. He is very talented and has to sort through all the options available to him when it comes to deciding what to do on the pitch.“, added the technician.
This work began to bear fruit, even earlier than expected. And many have begun to see him as the long-awaited replacement for the three big names in men’s tennis.
In 2022, an event seemed to head his way to this country: of the five titles he won, one of them was the Madrid Open, where he beat one of his idols, his compatriot Spanish Rafael Nadal.
“Obviously it’s a relief, one is just 19 and the other almost 36, if it’s today or not, I don’t know. We will see“, said then the winner of 22 Grand Slams from Alcaraz.
It was also Nadal who gave the best definition of his compatriot: “When you prepare a salad and put ingredients inside the salad, good he has many ingredients to become a great player“.
Perhaps one of the reasons why specialists and other players have placed Alcaraz in the first place to replace three tennis legends is the combination of characteristics that make him almost invincible, according to many sports specialists.
When Alcaraz convincingly beat Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Alexander Zverev in the Madrid Open final, former world No. 1 and winner of 18 Grand Slam titles Martina Navratilova was adamant: “This victory was a thunderbolt.”
“Alcaraz has no weaknesses. I don’t know what I would do if I played against him,” he said during a sports broadcast on the Amazon Prime channel.
For his part, the journalist of the Sport Daily portal Charlie Rhodes, said that Alcaraz “He is at the forefront of the teenage player revolution that tennis has been waiting for.”
For BBC tennis expert Russell Fuller, we may be witnessing the dawn of a new era.
“It has to be said: it’s not uncommon for teenagers to win big tournaments: Mats Wilander won Roland Garros at 17, Michael Chang and Boris Becker won Wimbledon at the same age,” Fuller explained.
For Fuller, however, it’s clear that since 1990 the game has become much more physical and winning seven best-of-five games over two weeks is a huge effort.
“What’s so intimidating to the rest of the world is that Alcaraz already seems to be pretty much the complete player..”, says the expert.
“He has lightning quick feet, power, touch, stamina and confidence that can turn a game around in its crucial moments. As if that weren’t enough, he also seems to have a volley special,” he concludes.
However, some also point out that other cases of possible successors to the “big three” that have not been consolidated have been presented before.
But in the case of Alcaraz, he seems to have come to stay.
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