Tennis

Carlos Alcaraz: The next Rafa Nadal?

Alcaraz won a fifth-set tiebreaker on Friday night to upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the US Open, becoming the youngest men’s quarterfinalist in the Open Era.

Carlos Alcaraz, an 18-year-old Spaniard from Murcia, has quickly become a well-known name in the world of tennis. At just 18 years old, the Spaniard has won three ATP Challenger titles, joining the status of elite players like Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet and Felix Auger Aliassime.

Alcaraz started young

Alcaraz started playing tennis at the ripe age of three. It wasn’t long before he was winning junior titles in Spain playing against his older peers. He was just 14 years old when he won his first ATP points at an event in Murcia. He first appeared in the ITF tournaments in 2018, just before turning 15 years old. At 16, he made his debut in the ATP draw at the 2020 Rio Open and beat fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Viñolas. At 17, he became the youngest participant in the men’s singles in the main draw at the Australian Open and won his Grand Slam against Botic van de Zandschulp, but lost in the second round to Mikael Ymer.

Inspired by Nadal

He became the youngest match winner in Madrid Open history in May when he defeated Adrian Mannarino as a wildcard, breaking Rafa Nadal’s record from 2004. It was Nadal himself who beat Alcaraz in the second round, on Alcaraz’s 18th birthday. Nadal has been an idol of Alcaraz’s from since he was a child. In an interview from when Alcaraz was 12 years old, he answers “Rafa Nadal” when asked who is his favorite player or idol. “Thanks to Rafa, I learned the importance of playing with high energy and giving everything from the first ball to the last,” Alcaraz said. “The challenge of trying to go to where Rafa has gone is also a big motivation for me, even if I know it’s all but impossible.”

US Open achievements 2021

At the US Open, Alcaraz upset world No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tiebreaker match, achieving the biggest win of his career. He was on the floor in disbelief looking up at the crowds with his hands on his mouth. “Ball speed was incredible,” Tsitsipas said. “I’ve never seen someone hit the ball so hard. Took time to adjust. Took time to kind of develop my game around his game style.” Alcaraz’s average forehand speed was 78 miles per hour, according to data from Hawkeye. That is three miles per hour faster than the US Open men’s average in 2021. His backhand speed was 75 miles per hour, five miles per hour faster than the average.

He went on to defeat Peter Gojowczyk to reach the quarterfinals. He is scheduled to play Felix Auger Aliassime Tuesday night at 8:15pm ET.

Alcaraz became the youngest man in a Grand Slam fourth round since 1992, the youngest man in the US Open fourth round since 1989, the youngest player to defeat an ATP Top-three player at the US Open since 1973, the youngest man to compete in the quarter finals in the Open Era and youngest in the tournament since 1963, and the youngest Major men’s single quarterfinalist since 1990. With all of these accomplishments at such a young age, it certainly seems like Carlos Alcaraz is on his way to becoming the next Rafa Nadal.