Carlos Alcaraz wins the 2022 US Open: How many Spanish players have won a Grand Slam?
Carlos Alcaraz became the ninth Spanish men’s player to win a Grand Slam in New York, continuing a legacy that stretches from Santana to Rafael Nadal.
Carlos Alcaraz beat Casper Ruud to claim a maiden Grand Slam title in New York on Sunday, becoming the youngest winner of the US Open since Pete Sampras in 1990 and the youngest player to land a major since Rafael Nadal in 2005. The 19-year-old’s victory over the Norwegian French Open finalist also took Alcaraz to the top of the ATP ranking, making the Spaniard the youngest world number one in history.
Alcaraz has been tipped for Grand Slam success for some time, although his rise has been exceptional by modern standards. The competitiveness of the ATP and WTA Tours, improvements in racket technology and fitness conditioning, the gruelling nature of the schedule in the 21st century and several other factors – not least the dominance of the Big Three of Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic on one side, and the Williams sisters on the other – has made teenaged Grand Slam champions a bit of a rarity. Between Sampras and Nadal there were none, and only a handful of players have come close to such precocious success since the great American conquered Flushing over 30 years ago: Jim Courier (French Open, 1991), Gustavo Kuerten (French Open, 1997), Marat Safin (US Open, 2000), Lleyton Hewitt (US Open, 2001), Djokovic (Australian Open, 2008) and Juan Martín del Potro (US Open, 2009) were all 20 when they claimed their first major titles.
On the WTA side the trend has been bucked recently, coinciding with the Williams sisters edging toward the ends of their careers: Emma Radacanu (18), Iga Swiatek (19) and Bianca Andreescu (19) have all won majors since 2019. Before them, Svetlana Kuznetsova (US Open, 2004) and Maria Sharapova (Wimbledon, 2004) were the last teenagers to win a Grand Slam.
Spanish Grand Slam winners
Alcaraz’s US Open victory was the 34th men’s Grand Slam title for Spain, which ranks fourth overall behind Great Britain (48), Australia (100) and the US (147). Nine players, including Alcaraz, have contributed to that tally, with Nadal accounting for 22 of them. Manolo Santana added two French Opens, Wimbledon and the US Open before the Open Era, when he was ranked an amateur world number one. Before the era of Nadal dominance, particularly on clay, Spaniards were still the scourge of French tennis fans in their Parisian back yard, the likes of Juan Carlos Ferrero (Alcaraz’s current coach), Albert Costa and Carlos Moyá all winning at Roland Garros between 1998 and 2003. Sergi Bruguera on back-to-back French titles in 1993 and 1994 but the final two Spanish Grand Slam winners are tricky ones to get identify in a quiz. Manuel Orantes (US Open, 1975) and Andrés Gimeno (French Open, 1972).
In terms of WTA Grand Slam titles, Spain ranks joint ninth with Brazil with seven majors (or more accurately with Maria Bueno, who won three Wimbledons and four US Opens between 1959 and 1966).
Arantxa Sánchez Vicario accounts for four of those (three French Opens and a US Open) with Garbiñe Muguruza adding two (French Open and Wimbledon). The other Spanish WTA player to win a major was Conchita Martínez (Muguruza’s coach), who won her sole Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 1994, where she beat Martina Navratilova.
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