As he watched his backhand slice drop onto the court inside Hard Rock Stadium and inside the line, Carlos Alcaraz fell to his back and put his hands on his head. After shaking hands with Casper Ruud, his defeated opponent, the Spanish teenager climbed into the stands and hugged members of his coaching team who had been waiting in his player box.
At just 18-years-old, Alcaraz had won the first ATP Masters 1000 title of his career, and became the youngest male champion in the nearly four-decade history of the Miami Open.
“I have no words to describe how I feel right now,” Alcaraz said as he addressed the crowd in his on-court interview. “I have an unbelievable team with me…I’m so happy with the win.”
His triumph in Miami was the biggest of his young and blossoming career, but should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid any sort of attention to tennis over the last couple of years. Someone who has voiced his opinion on Alcaraz’s future is his compatriot and idol growing up.
“When you have all that potential and you’re also a hard worker, it’s hard for things to go badly for you,” said Nadal at the Australian Open earlier this year. “You would expect his chances of fighting for the biggest titles to increase as each tournament goes by.”
Juan Carlos Ferraro, another from world number one from Spain who is currently a part of Alcaraz’s coaching team, echoed those sentiments.
“Obviously, Rafa’s words are really wonderful and much appreciated,” Ferraro said. “I really agree with what he said. The potential he has.”
With all of this praise, and now his on-court success, the possibilities for Alcaraz are endless, but the youngster continues to take everything in stride.
“Sometimes it is difficult, but I am trying to make it easy,” said Alcaraz as he prepared for the Monte Carlo Masters. “Doing everything for the first time, I am trying my best, trying to manage the nerves of the first time well.”
Photo Credit: Mike Lawrence/USTA
That sort of modesty comes from his humble beginnings. Alcaraz was born in El Palmar, Spain in March 2003 to Carlos and Virginia, and is one of four siblings. His father was a former ranked player and was ranked inside the Top 40 in Spain during his playing career. Thanks to that influence, the younger Carlos began playing tennis around the age of four.
He grew up watching the greats of the game from his home country, which includes Nadal as well as his current coach Ferraro, who has made the drastic claim of comparing, sort of, Alcaraz to the great Roger Federer.
“It is difficult to compare [anyone] to Roger Federer, of course, but if I had to say one name [in comparison to Carlos], I’m looking for somebody that is very aggressive and is able to do a lot of things on the court, and Roger is the best in these situations,” he said. “He can play on any surface and can play any type of style.”
And it is because of those reasons that of all the players that fall under the ATP’s Next Gen umbrella, Alcaraz seems to be the one with the biggest upside.
Oftentimes with young players, we tend to assign them out-of-this-world expectations that only set that up for failure, and that may be what is happening with Alcaraz in this situation. But rarely have we seen a player so young, so full of talent, and yet still humble and down to earth, unbothered by his or her sudden meteoric rise.
Alcaraz is the best of both worlds in that case. He is modest enough to get too high on himself, but still has that killer instinct that is necessary to win on the court, especially in the biggest stages.
“His dynamism on the court is his biggest asset,” Ferraro added. “He is capabale of doing what is asked of him and that’s very difficult to get from a player: serve-volley, play high or fast balls, he can do it all. That courage and ability to finish off a point is something I would have liked to have had in my career.”
With all the talent in the world, and the proper attitude and coaching team in his corner, there is no telling how far Alcaraz can go in his career. The next step is surely going deep consistently at the four majors. He reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open in 2021, and will look to build on that sort of result and try to make a habit out of advancing deep into the second week of majors.
“I’m grateful that people can see that I can be the best in the world, but my team and I know how difficult it is,” said Alcaraz. “I think I’m on the right path. If I stay on it and continue to do things right, I’ll have chances, although that doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Alcaraz will try to find success on the clay at Roland Garros, a surface he grew up playing on, but no matter what his results are for the rest of the year, the sport of tennis is in good hands with a player like Alcaraz taking the baton from the previous generation of greats.
Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA
This story first appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Long Island Tennis Magazine. Click Here to see the full digital edition
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.