Cabeza, corazon, cojones – only Michael Chang and Rafael Nadal were a little younger than Carlos Alcaraz when they won their first Masters. The 18-year-old Spaniard is the new high-flyer in tennis.
When his mobile phone suddenly rang after his historic coup in Miami, the fingers of tennis sensation Carlos Alcaraz began to tremble after all. It was the King – Felipe VI of Spain himself congratulating the 18-year-old on his impressive Masters triumph, which sent the scene into turmoil.
“It’s great to get a call from the King of Spain. I was more nervous than I was in the match,” said a beaming Alcaraz, who beat Norway’s Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-4 in the final: “I never expected that.” The Iberian royal head of state will have made a mental note of the number, because for Alcaraz it could be just the start of a potentially significant trophy collection.
Already eleventh in the world rankings
Only the American Michael Chang (Toronto 1990) and his idol Rafael Nadal (Monte Carlo 2005) were slightly younger than the athlete from Murcia, who achieved his feat at exactly 18 years and 333 days. He thus replaced a certain Novak Djokovic as the youngest Miami champion – the world number one from Serbia won the title in 2007 at the age of 19. “Congratulations Carlitos on your historic win in Miami,” Nadal wrote on Twitter. Many would surely follow.
Alcaraz, who has already outgrown his status as a child prodigy and climbed to eleventh in the world rankings, is repeatedly compared to the record Grand Slam champion from the island of Mallorca. And there are obvious parallels that go beyond the country of origin. The muscle-bound body, already in his young professional years, the enormous fighting spirit and the unconditional will to win are reminiscent of Nadal, to whom he was last narrowly defeated in the semi-finals of Indian Wells. “I have always looked up to Rafa, seen his great moments and matches and learned a lot from him,” Alcaraz said.
Nadal comparison unwanted
But the powerful right-hander does not want to be the “next Nadal”. His coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who flew to Miami at short notice for the final after the death of his father and hugged his protégé with emotion, “doesn’t like it when I’m compared to Rafa,” Alcaraz said recently. He wants to go his own way and has developed his own variable style of play, with which he also won the title at the 500 tournament in Rio de Janeiro this spring. In this category, he is the youngest champion since its introduction in 2009.
With the start of the clay court season, Alcaraz has arrived at the top of the world and is another strong competitor for German number one Alexander Zverev in his hunt for a Grand Slam triumph – already at the French Open from 22 May. Also because he always remembers his grandfather’s advice in the decisive phases of a match. Cabeza, corazon, cojones – head, heart, balls, that’s what counts. “This motto accompanies me,” says Alcaraz.