Last year, the world of tennis fell in love with a teenage sensation as Britain’s very own Emma Raducanu transformed herself from an unknown qualifier into US Open champion across a magical three weeks in New York.
In 2022, could the sport be ready to embrace another teenage superstar?
This weekend 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz Garfia claimed his maiden Masters 1000 title in the Miami Open after defeating Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-4. The young Spaniard has showcased some mesmerising tennis in Florida over the last two weeks and he is establishing himself as one of the sport’s brightest prospects as he moved up to World No. 11. He demonstrated his skills which appear to be too advanced for someone so young, and his lethal abilities were too much for three of the top-10 seeded players, Stefanos Tsitsipas, the former Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz and Ruud.
A year ago, he was ranked 133rd, yet now he is on the cusp of joining them in the prestigious top 10 club and if his performances continue to be as commanding as this, it won’t be long until he reaches this landmark. This will not only provide the youngster with confidence moving forward, but he has sent out a warning to the big guns on the ATP tour with his first Masters 1000 triumph.
In the era that has been dominated by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, there have been plenty of breakthroughs onto the circuit but none seem to be as exciting as Alcaraz who looks like he will stay on course with his upward trajectory on court. He had already built up momentum in February when he claimed his first Masters 500 title at the Rio Open and now he has another title to his name, a big performance at a Grand Slam event will be next on his mind.
Following his victory in Miami, Alcaraz revealed his plan to win more tournaments in the coming months and years, saying: “I am achieving very difficult things like winning here in Miami and previously at Rio, two incredible tournaments where great players are also competing.
“The fact that I won them gave me extra motivation. At the start of the year, I said I wanted to finish among the top 15 and now I am world number 11.
“I wanted to win an ATP 500 and I did it, then I wanted to win an ATP 1000 and I did it too.
“I am not afraid to say that I want to win a Grand Slam. I know it is going to be a difficult path because you are playing against the best players in the world during two weeks, but I am not afraid, I will try to win a Grand Slam.”
There is no doubting his determination, and if it is as strong as his game on court currently is, it will provide the perfect cocktail to help him achieve his next goal. His success in Miami made history as he became the third youngest player to win a Masters 1000 tournament, behind Nadal and Michael Chang.
It would be easy for a player with such talent at a raw age to be consumed by their self-confidence but Alcaraz remains humble and this was proven in his semi-final match against Hurkacz. After an umpire error, he offered to replay a point and that humility is what is going to make him a firm fan-favourite in the years to come. As each match went by in Miami, he offered messages of support to his coach, former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who recently lost his father. However, Alcaraz received a welcome surprise as his mentor flew in for the final and he was the first person that the prodigy sought after the victory. They embraced in what was a powerful moment in which Ferrero cried into Alcaraz’s shoulder.
His personality and his astounding ability will certainly earn him more followers for the upcoming Grand Slams, with the French Open and Wimbledon fast approaching and after his brilliant start to 2022, he will be hoping to make a mark on the biggest stage of all.
His best performance to date came in the 2021 US Open, where he reached the quarter-finals, having beat Tsitsipas in the third round before having to retire in his last-eight match against Felix Auger-Aliassame. With both his forehand and backhand shots improving significantly in recent months, he will be one of the few players that the big guns will want to avoid in the early stages because in current form, he could be set to hand out a number of upsets.