MADRID ( Associated Press) — The rise of Carlos Alcaraz has been meteoric.
Until very recently, the 19-year-old prodigy was playing junior tournaments, raving about his idols Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, as well as his dream of breaking into the Top 10 and being crowned Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion.
He broke through to the top 120 in the world just a year ago, and started to make a name for himself in the big tournaments.
Few could have predicted the brilliant present of the young Spaniard. In a few days in Paris, Alcaraz will be among the candidates for the title at the French Open.
Alcaraz is the new tennis sensation and the player in the best form of the moment, seen as the successor of his compatriot Nadal.
He has just won the Madrid Open to add his fourth title, leader on the tour. He did it after chaining victories against Nadal, world number one Novak Djokovic and number three Alexander Zverev.
“In my first tournaments as a child in (his hometown of) Murcia I did not imagine that I would become champion of Madrid,” said Alcaraz. My life was to compete, I still like to compete more than to train”.
Alcaraz became the second youngest player to break into the Top 10 and the second youngest to win two Masters 1000 series tournaments. Only Nadal did so at a younger age in 2005, when he was 18.
“I can already see him being a great in a very short time”, warned Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fifth in the ranking. “I would like to be able to be at the level he is at right now. I think he is one of the best players in the world, without lying to you. He has confirmed it with consistent results, standing out in the most important tournaments. He cannot be detracted from at all”.
Alcaraz leads the tour with 28 wins this year, one more than Tsitsipas. He has only suffered three defeats: against Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo, Nadal in Indian Wells and Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open.
He has just become the youngest player in the history of the ATP tour to beat three of the top five in the ranking in the same tournament, and the first to eliminate both Nadal and Djokovic in the same event on surface of clay.
Djokovic and Nadal praised him, with the Serb saying it was “impressive that someone so young could play with such maturity and courage”. Nadal pointed out that Spain should celebrate having a player who will shine for a long time.
Alcaraz dominated the front pages of most Spanish sports newspapers on Monday, eclipsing the derby that Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid played on Sunday.
With a maturity that deceives his age, Alcaraz has impressed with a complete game, in which the hammer of his forehand return and the precision to leave short balls stand out.
Alcaraz will not play in Rome this week to fully recover from the right ankle injury suffered in the quarter-final against Nadal in the Spanish capital.
He will go straight to Roland Garros, where Nadal holds the record with 13 titles, and is ranked sixth — the best of his career. He reached the third round in Paris on his debut last year, losing in straight sets to Jan-Lennard Struff.
“This year I think people are going to take me as a favorite, but I don’t take it as pressure but as motivation,” said Alcaraz. “I want to go to Paris to show my good level in a Grand Slam. This title gives me a lot of confidence to go to Roland Garros with energy”.