Alcaraz, the year of the explosion

Nacho Albarrán


Nacho Albarrán

In November 2017, the ATP and Lacoste called in a very shy Spanish boy to play the U14 Invitational, a tournament for six promising tennis players that was played at the O2 Arena in parallel to the Masters in which Rafa Nadal participated. That was the first time it appeared on the pages of AS. “My name is Carlos Alcaraz, I’m 14 years old, I come from Murcia and I’m going to play the ATP Finals U-14 tournament”. This is how he introduced himself before confessing that Nadal was his “idol” and “an example to follow”, and to win that competition. Four years later, it peeks out at the top.


Carlos Alcaraz, right, at the Lacoste U14 Invitational presentation.

Our newspaper, which has followed him closely since then, rewards him for a magnificent 2021 for him, for Spanish men’s tennis and for the fans who are excited about his game and his charisma. In this course, under the guidance of his coach, the one who was number one in the world, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Charly made his debut in the four Grand Slams and in all of them he added victories. In Melbourne, he had to spend 15 days in quarantine under the COVID protocol because a positive case was registered on the plane that took him there. “I want to do everything but be in the room”, he told this newspaper when the confinement was lifted and after debuting in a competition prior to the Australian Open in which he eliminated the Belgian Goffin (14th in the world at that time). Later he won all three games in the previous one and made his debut in his first major with a victory against the Dutchman Van de Zandschulp. At Roland Garros he reached the third round a few days after meeting and losing for the first time with Nadal in Madrid. At Wimbledon he ran into the Russian Medvedev in the second match.

“I want to do everything but be in the room”

Alcaraz, after the Melbourne lockdown

And the finishing touch in the big events put it in New York when he beat then world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round (later he had to retire in the quarterfinals against Auger-Aliassime) with an epic performance that went around the world. “I don’t have words to explain how I feel. I don’t even know what happened there”Alcaraz said after meeting. “I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball so hard”said the Greek, adding that he saw him as “a contender to win titles at Slams.” That was the first of his three top-10 wins of the season. On hard court, he also beat Italians Matteo Berrettini (7), in Vienna, and Jannik Sinner (9), in Paris.

Alcaraz's brand of earliness at the US Open.


Alcaraz’s brand of earliness at the US Open.

Earlier, in July, he had lifted his first ATP trophy, on the clay of Umag, in Croatia. There he swept 35-year-old French veteran Richard Gasquet (double 6-2). “It’s amazing. I have so many emotions. I am very, very happy with this victory. I had a lot of good moments in this tournament and I beat five great tennis players (Pouille, Martin, Krajinovic, Ramos and Gasquet)”. Carlos had been champion in the Challenger of Oeiras (Portugal), his fourth wound in the category after those of Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante in 2020, a year in which his progression was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic after marveling at his first ATP victory in Rio de Janeiro against Albert Ramos.

There he realized that “compete against the best”. He affirmed this in an AS interview, in which he said that during the mandatory confinement, which happened in the Academy of his coach, JC Ferrero Equelite de Villena, he focused on “gain more physical strength and improve serve”. At the time, he just wanted to “compete internationally” and he preferred not to be compared to Nadal. “To begin with, it is almost impossible or very difficult to get to where he has arrived. Each player has his way”, argument.

Alcaraz’s achievements in 2021

  • Youngest quarterfinalist (18 years and 4 months) of the US Open since the beginning of the Open Era (1968).
  • Wins in every Grand Slam with 18 years, 3 months and 25 days, data with which he improves the marks of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.
  • Record of 7-3 in his first 10 matches in majors, such as the Balearic Islands (7-3) and ahead of the Serbian (5-5) and the Swiss (5-5).
  • Youngest to beat a top-3, Tsitsipas, than the entire Big Three at 18 years and four months.
  • Earliest first title (Umag) (18 years, 2 months and 20 days) in a decade, with only eight days more than Nadal had when it opened in Sopot 2004.
  • Winner with best records in the history of the NextGen ATP Finals: 5 wins and 0 losses and 15-1 in sets.

Other milestones for Alcaraz in 2021 were the semifinals in Marbella, Winston-Salem and Vienna before the great climax, that of the title in his first NextGen ATP Finals., the U21 Masters in which he was undefeated champion in five games with a record of 15-1 in sets to the best of seven games. His superiority at the Allianz Cloud in Milan was absolute. No one had been successful with those numbers in the previous three editions. In Italy he reiterated that his dream is “become number one”. “That is my goal and I will continue to focus on it”, he asserted. He also advanced his aspirations: “Winning the NextGen Finals means a lot to be motivated for next year and keep training hard, keep improving. And the next ATP Finals are a very cool goal, very difficult, I would say almost impossible, but we will fight and work to achieve it “.

That without losing the north. “I am a very simple boy, from the village, and I will always be like that”, he warned. At that time, he still had one major challenge ahead of the season: the Davis Cup Finals. “I am very excited to be part of the team, then we will see if the captain will put me to play or not.” Unfortunately, COVID crossed his path again. He knew that he had contracted it just in the previous tie that Spain played and won against Ecuador, in which he would have participated with almost total security before the injury of Roberto Bautista. “Sometimes things don’t happen the way you want and you have to overcome it. It’s a very tough stick, but you will have to get up in the face of this situation and come out strengthened”he wrote on his Instagram account. From Madrid, he traveled with hardly any symptoms in a special car, isolated, to El Palmar, the Murcian town where he was born and which follows him with pride.

“I am a very simple boy, from the village, and I will always be like that”


Alcaraz is preparing for the next season with his team, with Ferrero at the helm, the coach with whom he has progressed and whom he admires and obeys. He will do it as a well-known and respected player on the circuit, seeded in the Australian Open because he is already 32nd in the world ranking. Great successes await after the year of the explosion.

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