As far as he can remember, Carlos Alcaraz has always wanted to be world number 1. A prodigy as in a hurry as he is a fierce fighter, the Spaniard became one at only 19, making him the most precocious in history, thanks to his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
On a court, the young man goes very, very, very fast. Which often allows him to disgust his opponents, by dint of returning all the balls, the furthest, the strongest, the most vicious, the most desperate, to ultimately win a point that seemed inevitably lost.
This ability is coupled with a boundless self-sacrifice, which exudes humility and inevitably recalls that of Rafael Nadal, a quality which has made one of the characteristics and above all one of the keys to the success of this glorious elder, with a record of 22 titles in the Grand Slam under his belt.
If we add their meteoric journey in common – the two won a first Masters 1000 at 18 and a first Major at 19 – the cumbersome label of “next Nadal” was quickly stuck on the back of Alcaraz.
“It’s been going on for years on social media. But I try not to get distracted: I think about myself, about my progress. I’m from Murcia, he’s from Mallorca. He’s left-handed, not me. When I was small, I was anything but a warrior, I was small, frail, not really powerful”he recalled in June to the Italian daily Corriere della Serra.
It was at four years old that “Carlitos” started hitting his first balls, on the courts or alone against the wall of the tennis club run by his father, in El Palmar, near Murcia, where he still lives with his parents and three brothers.
“At 5 or 6 years old, Carlos already had natural qualities, very good coordination and above all an ability to learn very quickly. He could copy what he saw on the court. decided to develop its potential”told his father to Trans World Sport.
On Sunday, by winning his first Major title at Flushing Meadows, at the expense of Norwegian Casper Ruud (6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-3), he killed two birds with one stone. , even setting a precocious record for reaching the top of the hierarchy, at exactly 19 years, 4 months and 6 days. All this, less than five months after being the youngest player in history to break into the top 10. Supersonic.
Coquetry of fate, it was at the US Open, 19 years ago almost to the day, that his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero became number 1, beating Andre Agassi in the semi-finals before losing to Andy Roddick. . Three months earlier, the Spaniard had won at Roland-Garros and his future protege had just been born. Fate brought them together, since Ferrero took him under his wing at 15, in his academy in Villena, a good hour from Alcaraz. “It changed my life. I evolved, I became tougher on the court”assures the young gifted.
“I’m ready to play in five sets against the best, very long matches. It doesn’t scare me. Better: it’s an advantage”he dared again before Roland-Garros.
Having become a rock, Alcaraz proved it by winning several marathons at the US Open. Even where a year earlier, for his very first participation, a thigh injury had forced the Spaniard to boil as a teenager to abandon in the quarters, after a hair-raising course.
Nevertheless launched, the rocket passed the speed of light this year, with four titles gleaned in the spring, including its first two Masters 1000 in Miami then in Madrid. In the Spanish capital, he made an impression by knocking out Nadal and Novak Djokovic, then world number 1, unheard of in the same clay court tournament. No question then of seeing yourself arrive: “It’s not because I won what I won very quickly that it goes to my head. I know very well that I have to keep working to achieve my dream: to be world number 1 “.
When he triumphed in Madrid, he thought first of his roots. “Long live El Palmar and long live Murcia”he wrote on the camera presented to the players. “I am very family. I love being at home with my family and with friends. I will never lose this DNA”he then explained.
Feet firmly on the ground, to better rise in the stratosphere.
“It’s very special for me”
Once recovered from his emotions, the new world number one commented on his coronation: “I would first like to talk about the special day this is for the USA, my thoughts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy of 9/11. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was little , win a grand slam and be number one, i worked very hard for this. It’s hard to talk about now, i have a lot of emotions. i worked very hard with my team, my family, i n I’m only 19 and I make the decisions with them. It’s very special for me. When I won, I thought of my mother, who couldn’t be there, and my family. Almost all my team is there, but some of my family members couldn’t come and I think about them a lot. Now I’m a bit tired, but I always say that it’s not the time to be tired in a tournament , you have to give everything on the court, it’s something I’m working very hard on. A lot of people came from Spain to cheer me on. It’s amazing to be able to live this with you.”