With every win that 19-year-old Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz bags, the more the media hype around him grows.
Already, he is touted as the new generation of men’s tennis. Is he the beginning of a new generation that will rival the successes and dominance that marked the careers of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic? Or is he just another flash in the pan?
Lets take a look at the young career of a very young Alcaraz and see who he is, how his early progress compares to the big three, and what his future is likely going to look like.
Who is He?
Carlos Alcaraz is a Spanish tennis player born in May 2003. His father was a tennis academy director at the Real Sociedad Club de Campo de Murcia and so Carlos was exposed to the world of tennis at a very young age.
In 2018, the young player started playing at the Juan Carlos Ferrero’s Equelite JC Ferrero Sports Academy. He made his ATP debut in February 2020 when he was just 16 years old at the Rio Open.
Early Career Successes
That same year, at the Madrid Open, he broke 18-year-old Rafael Nadal’s record of being the youngest match winner when he beat Adrian Mannarino. He also got his dream match at the time and went up against Nadal in the second round. He lost to the 22-time Grand Slam winner.
The teen has only gone up since then. In 2021, he made it as far as the quarterfinals of the US Open and in less than a year, he was in the third round of the Australian Open and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon after that.
What Makes Him Different?
Alcarazs game is explosive, dynamic, and complete. As tennis journalist Ben Rothenburg put it, He’s an incredibly complete, well-rounded player for someone so young and he can do it all.
Rothernburg also added, “He seems very sharp tactically, he has a very good tennis IQ and physically he has been great too.”
Tennis is also known for a place of importance on the culture of effort. Like with golf, you have to be out there doing the work week after week if you want to see an improvement in your game and your standings. This is something that the young Alcaraz clearly understands.
He also has a lot of belief in himself and that is important. In an interview with CNN before his 2022 French Open romp, Alcaraz said of himself, “I would say that I am one of the favorite players to win Roland Garros.”
How does His Rise Compares to the Big Three?
At just a few months over 18 years old, Carlos Alcaraz lifted his first ATP Trophy in Umag, Croatia. Impressive, but not as impressive as a young Nadal who was eight days younger than Alcaraz was when he won his first title. Federer and Djokovic were 19 when they started winning tournaments.
Alcaraz was just shy of his 19th birthday when he won his first Masters title at the Miami Open. Again, Nadal did it sooner who was two weeks younger than Alcaraz was when he won the Monte Carlo Open back in 2005.
Alcaraz was also behind the pace set by Nadal when breaking into the Top 100 and the Top 10 of the World Rankings. Both Federer and Djokovic had to wait a bit longer to achieve the same feats.
But Alcaraz beats all three as the quickest to have clocked in 50 wins, needing just 70 matches. Nadal needed 81 while Federer needed 97.
In the Shadow of the Big Three
The Big Three have dominated tennis for all of Alcaraz’s 19 years of existence. He was only two months only when Nadal won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, kick-starting the era of the Big Three where Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic dominated.
Throughout that time. Several people have been touted as The Next Generation of tennis greats. In 2015, it was Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. In 2019 came Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. In 2022, the name on everyone’s lips is Carlos Alcaraz.
Tsitsipas and Medvedev remain at the top of their game with the Russian even breaking the dominance set by the big three by being the number 1 player in an era when neither of the Big Three players was in the top 2 of the rankings.
Things have not gone too well for the Big Three in the past few years or so. Both Nadal and Federer were hampered by injuries.
Although, Nadal is having a banner year in 2022 and has staged an impressive comeback, winning the Australian Open, and the French Open. Federer hopes for a 2023 return.
Djokovic, on the other hand, is having his woes, although not injury related, his unvaccinated status has kept him from playing in Melbourne Park and will likely keep him from the US Open. He has dramatically slid down in the rankings and now sits at No.7 with all likelihood of sliding down further.
This may prove the best window for the young Spaniard to not only make his mark in the world of tennis but also reach his personal goals.
Predictions for the Future
When it comes to tennis, predicting the future is not always black and white. But in Alcaraz’s case, man would bet on him as a player who would soon hold the No.1 spot in the world rankings.
The Big Three will leave professional tennis sooner rather than later and it is time to look at the younger generations to see who dominates and Alcaraz is in the forefront.
If his 2022 season is any indication, time is the only thing keeping the young Spaniard from becoming World No.1.