“He is not a normal guy. Like Novak was not a normal guy. Like Roger was not a normal guy. Like probably me was not a normal guy.”
That’s Rafael Nadal speaking about Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid earlier this month. It’s a distinctive description of a younger participant that immediately attracts parallels with three giants of contemporary tennis.
Alcaraz, along with his record-rewriting performances this season and a sport good to beat the finest however nonetheless creating quick, has compelled Nadal – as certainly most others – into referring to him in the identical breath as the Big Three. So, let’s make sense of the 19-year-old’s exploits vis-a-vis the younger Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
A swift begin
Alcaraz’s early consistency stands out. The Spanish teenager (he turned professional in 2018) has already collected greater than 50 wins on the ATP tour, at a a lot sooner clip than the Big Three. Alcaraz reached the landmark – after profitable the Miami Open semi-final final month – in 70 matches, 9 fewer than Djokovic. Nadal took 81 matches and Federer 97. According to the ATP’s Win/Loss Index, Alcaraz’s quickest-to-50 mark tops every of the 27 completely different world No 1 gamers. The checklist consists of the cream of males’s tennis, from Pete Sampras to John McEnroe to Andre Agassi.
The tempo is unbelievable given Alcaraz gained his first match on the ATP Tour solely in February 2020. A piece of these wins has come throughout his giant-killing and title-sweeping run this year. After a 32-17 win-loss document in 2021, Alcaraz has raced to 28 wins this year – with a smidge of three defeats – and we’re solely about midway into the season.
Title tally: Five (& counting)
Those 28 wins have additionally handed Alcaraz 4 titles in 2022, the most by any participant up to now this year (Nadal and Andrey Rublev have three every). Alcaraz is now a holder of 5 ATP trophies, having bagged the first one in an ATP 250 occasion in Umag final July. His fifth in Madrid got here three days after his nineteenth birthday. Among the Big Three, solely Nadal held 5 titles at a youthful age.
Nadal gained his debut ATP crown at the Prokom Open in Sopot, Poland in August 2004 and sprinted to 5 at the Barcelona Open the following April, a couple of months shy of turning 19. Djokovic was days away from turning 20 when he gained his fifth title at the 2007 Estoril Open, a year after his first in Amersfoort. In distinction, Federer, aged 21, took a couple of years to pocket his fifth in Marseille in 2003 after getting on board at the indoor courts of Milan in 2001.
Couple of 1000s
Two of Alcaraz’s 5 titles are ATP Masters 1000 occasions, the highest match class on the tour. He turned the second youngest ever to bag a couple of Masters crowns after profitable in Madrid. The first wasn’t all that youthful. Nadal was 18 years and 11 months when he gained his second ATP 1000 title at the Italian Open in May 2005. Djokovic was 20 when he backed up his maiden Masters title in Miami by profitable in Canada in the identical 2007 season, whereas Federer was 22 by the time he added the 2004 Indian Wells to his first in 2002 Hamburg.
Although Nadal is the youngest, each his Masters titles got here on clay (Monte Carlo and Rome). Alcaraz, on the different hand, has gained them on completely different surfaces, and after beating 4 of the high 5 gamers. He swept previous fifth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas on the laborious courts at Miami Open en route to his maiden Masters trophy final month earlier than taking out No 4 Nadal, No 1 Djokovic and No 3 Alexander Zverev back-to-back on the pink Madrid filth.
This manner to the high 10
This time final year, Alcaraz hadn’t even entered the high 100 of the ATP rankings. He is now the world No 6. It wanted all of 18 years, 11 months and 20 days for Alcaraz to scribble his title in the high 10. He is the ninth youngest man in it since computerised rankings started in 1973, and the youngest since – any guess – his senior compatriot.
Nadal was a month youthful than Alcaraz when he figured in the world’s high 10 for the first time in April 2005 put up his triumph in Barcelona, the identical match after which Alcaraz entered the elite membership as the 2022 Barcelona Open winner. Djokovic was 19 when he first wore the top-10 tag in March 2007 whereas Federer was out of his teenagers, at 20.
Off the mark in Slams
Grand Slam success is what separates the good from the nice and the nice from the GOAT. Indeed, it’s what has outlined the Big Three with a collective 61 Slams between them. Alcaraz is but to win his first, however even the GOAT contenders – we haven’t had the ultimate phrase on it – took a whereas to get their first chunk of the Slam cake.
Federer made his Grand Slam debut in 1999 and went by means of a four-year grind earlier than starting his rely at the 2003 Wimbledon, at 21. Djokovic was 20 when he gained the 2008 Australian Open, three years after his maiden Major look on the identical Melbourne courts. Nadal performed his first Roland Garros match 10 days shy of this nineteenth birthday, celebrating it by beating Federer in the semi-finals. Two days later, he had lifted the 2005 French Open trophy. The baby-faced teen sporting sleeveless tees had introduced his ascendancy on the Slam stage, the place he first competed in 2003.
Alcaraz finds himself in a related position. His maiden Grand Slam outing was at the 2020 French Open that ended with a gap qualifying spherical defeat. Last year, Alcaraz progressed to the third spherical in Paris and the quarter-finals in New York. He beat Tsitsipas in the US Open Round of 32.
So upbeat is the teen about his present kind, with hovering self-belief, that he feels “ready” to win a Grand Slam this season. “It’s a goal for me this year to get my first Grand Slam,” Alcaraz stated. “Let’s see what happens in Roland Garros.”