09:00 PM GMT April 18, 2021
Carlos Alcaraz has stepped into the spotlight in 2021, checking off plenty of firsts — competing in his first Grand Slam and ATP Masters 1000 events among them. But the 17-year-old, who is the youngest player in the Top 500 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, is not getting overwhelmed. Instead, he’s acting like a sponge and soaking it all in.
“I’m motivated now to play here in Barcelona at this ATP 500, and then Madrid is an ATP Masters 1000, so for me it’s amazing to play against the great players and to play these kind of tournaments,” Alcaraz said. “I’m getting a lot of experience and I’m looking for that. I’m really happy and really hungry for that.”
The #NextGenATP Spaniard, who is World No. 119, has shown it is a matter of when, not if he will crack the Top 100. The players he has beaten this year include David Goffin, Casper Ruud and Feliciano Lopez.
The protege of former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero is a tough competitor, and Alcaraz is making sure that even when he loses, he is taking lessons from those defeats.
“I learned a lot from the last tournaments, the last matches. It has been [my] greatest matches against the greatest players,” Alcaraz said. “But the biggest thing that I learned is how to manage the pressure in the tough moments, the nerves, what game I have to play in the tough moments, to be aggressive all the time.”
Despite his tender age, Alcaraz strikes the ball like a fully developed ATP Tour pro. The teen, who first made his mark last year as a 16-year-old in Rio de Janeiro by beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a three-hour, 37-minute marathon, has not been infallible. In his first tour-level semi-final last week in Marbella, Alcaraz struggled to consistently find his best level against Jaume Munar.
Although the 6’1” righty was disappointed, he realised there were things he could take away from the match to improve.
“I’m learning to play always the same, not to play in a different way in the tough moments and the beginning of the match,” Alcaraz said. “I’m learning and I’m really happy to learn that.”
Earlier that week, Alcaraz upset Ruud 6-2, 6-4. At the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Norwegian reached the semi-finals, showing the form the Spaniard is capable of. Ruud was impressed.
“I played pretty well in Marbella, but I lost to a good young player. I got a tough beating there,” Ruud said in Monte-Carlo. “He was playing very well. [It] surprised me a bit how well Alcaraz was playing back in Marbella. He showed me that the young guys are coming.”
Two years ago, Alcaraz lost in the first round of qualifying in Barcelona as the World No. 505. Now knocking on the door of the Top 100, the 17-year-old will try to prove Ruud and plenty of others who believe in his potential right, starting with his first-round match against Frances Tiafoe.
Did You Know?
Alcaraz turns 18 on 5 May. Another 17-year-old in the Barcelona field, Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, will be 18 on 29 April.