When Carlos Alcaraz saw Rafael Nadal walk off the court at the Madrid Open on Friday, he did what he has done countless times before: stand up and cheer. But there was a big difference. Alcaraz had just beaten Nadal for the first time, knocking his longtime idol and fellow Spaniard out of the tournament.
The victory was quickly seen as a defining moment for Alcaraz, with tournament organizers sharing an old photo showing Nadal posing with the young fan who would grow up to defeat him.
Alcaraz then put an exclamation point on the achievement by winning the tournament. To do so, he outclassed three of the top five players in the world, becoming the youngest player to accomplish that feat at an event since the ATP Tour began in 1990.
Like other records Alcaraz has set in his young career, his latest feat points to where he could be headed: Novak Djokovic, the previous record holder, was 20 years old when he beat Roger Federer, Nadal and Andy Roddick in 2007, when they were the world No. 1-3 players, respectively, at a tournament in Montreal.
Alcaraz turned 19 this Thursday
This is how he spent the following days:
- Friday: Defeated World No. 4 Nadal in three sets
- Saturday: Defeated World No. 1 Djokovic in three sets
- Sunday: Defeated World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in straight sets
Afterward, Alcaraz said he felt great, saying he’s ready for more.
“I would say this is the best week of my life,” Alcaraz said. “I mean, I beat two of the best players in history, I beat Zverev in the final, a great player too, number 3 in the world.”
Alcaraz is often called by his nickname, Carlitos. But the youngster took Madrid’s clay courts by storm last week, dominating points with his forehand and winning rallies with fearless creativity and a lethal drop shot.
To shut Nadal down, he ran into the net on match point, a phrase rarely used in the tennis world, due to Nadal’s shot-making skills, and then hit a corner shot winner after Nadal almost won. point.
Here are a few more things to know about the young star:
Alcaraz does not sneak away from anyone
The sports world is prone to hype. But Alcaraz is widely seen as one of the most exciting and talented players to emerge in men’s tennis in years.
“Right now, you are the best player in the world” Zverev said on the pitch after Sunday’s game. He jokingly added, “Although you are still five years old, you are still beating us.”
Alcaraz is currently the No. 6 ranked player in the world, rising three places this week after adding nearly 1,000 points to his ATP rankings. He has risen thanks to an eye-popping 28-3 record in games so far in 2022.
At 19, Alcaraz is the youngest player to win five ATP Tour titles. from Nadalthat he was 18 when he reached the mark in 2005. Four of those championships came in 2022, the most among all players.
Many tennis fans were introduced to Alcaraz when he burst onto the scene at last fall’s US Open, reaching the quarterfinals. But after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas and Peter Gojowczyk in five-set matches, the 18-year-old retired midway through his next match.
Last month, Alcaraz became the youngest men’s champion at the Miami Open, after beating Tsitsipas again.
What’s next: a showdown in Paris
The Madrid tournament has long served as a tune-up to the French Open, helping professionals acclimate to playing on clay courts. The big tournament kicks off in Paris later this month, and Roland-Garros organizers are eagerly awaiting the new dynamic that Alcaraz’s arrival will bring.
Nadal, Zverev and Djokovic all reached the semi-finals of last year’s French Open, where Djokovic ultimately beat Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title. But for now, all eyes are on Alcaraz.
“Carlos Alcaraz wins the biggest title on clay of his career”, Roland-Garros announced on Twitterafter the Spaniard won the Madrid Open.
“For now,” he added in a follow-up message.
Alcaraz is skipping the Italian Open to rest his ankle, which he sprained during his quarterfinal match in Madrid.
He will always be favorite to win it all, says Nadal
Nadal defeated Alcaraz at the Madrid Open last year. When this year’s tournament started, Nadal said that Alcaraz no longer has to admire him, because now he is reaching the heights of the sport.
“When you are young and when you are very good, the process is faster than normal people,” Nadal said. “So he’s not a normal guy, like Novak he wasn’t a normal guy, like Roger he wasn’t a normal guy, and probably [I] He wasn’t a normal guy.”
From now on, Nadal said, Alcaraz will be seen as the favorite in every tournament he plays in.