Nadal-Alcaraz: who is the favourite for the French Open?
Having won clay titles in Barcelona and Madrid, world number six Carlos Alcaraz is eyeing glory at the French Open, where Rafa Nadal reigns supreme.
Carlos Alcaraz declared he would be going to the French Open with the title in his sights after the teenage sensation stormed to Madrid Open glory.
The 19-year-old swatted aside a weary Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-1 in an hour and two minutes in Sunday’s final.
That followed hard-fought three-set wins for Alcaraz over Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two of the pillars of men’s tennis this century, and it points to a glorious future.
If the present moment seems good, then thoughts are already turning to what remarkable feats Alcaraz might achieve across his career.
He is widely considered a multiple slam winner in waiting, but must first knock off that first major.
Alcaraz: “Let’s see what is going to happen at Roland Garros”
The Spanish teenager has won a tour-leading four titles already in 2022, and he said on Tennis TV: “Yes, I think I’m ready to win a Grand Slam. I think I’m ready to go for it.
“This is a goal for me this year, try to get my first grand slam. I’m going to work for it and let’s see what is going to happen at Roland Garros.”
The French Open begins on May 22, and Alcaraz will skip the Internazionali d’Italia to ensure he is rested and focused on the tournament in Paris, where some bookmakers have the teenager as a close second favourite to 13-time champion Nadal.
He reached the third round last year, but the Alcaraz of 12 months ago was not the winning machine he has become, a powerful striker of the ball who should fear nobody on the French clay.
Alcaraz has become the second-youngest player to win two Masters 1000 titles, after the 18-year-old Nadal in 2005, having added Madrid to his Miami triumph, and is the youngest, also since Nadal, to scoop five ATP Tour titles.
Alcaraz has a perfect record in title matches, becoming the sixth man in the Open Era to win his first five finals at tour level, and he has strung together seven consecutive wins against opponents ranked inside the top 10.
On Monday, he will jump three places to sixth in the ATP rankings, a new career high. Yet the teenager says there is plenty of scope for growing his game, as the likes of the ‘Big Three’ have shown.
“I think that I have to improve everything still,” he said. “I have always said that you can improve everything. You never reach a limit.
“Look at Rafa, Djokovic, [Roger] Federer, all of them improve and they have things to improve. They keep on working and improving. That’s what I want to do. I want to keep on progressing.”
He added, quoted on the ATP official website: “I have really good shots. I don’t say that I don’t have them, but I know that I can improve them and they can be even better.”
In Madrid, Alcaraz became the youngest player to beat three top-five stars at the same tournament since the ATP Tour launched in 1990, by taking out top-ranked Djokovic, world number three Zverev and Nadal, who sits fourth in the rankings.
He leads the way for wins in the 2022 season as his 10th straight triumph takes him to 28 match victories for the campaign, one more than Stefanos Tsitsipas.