Over the past decade-plus, as men’s tennis has continued to see unprecedented dominance from a few select legends, the lingering question has been what will follow Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer when they are truly gone. So many new waves of new players have risen with great fanfare, and so many have already fallen, but in this period there has never been an arrival like the emergence of Carlos Alcaraz.
Turning 19 next month, and in his first full season as a top 100 player, the Spaniard continued his delirious breakthrough year by becoming Masters 1000 champion for the first time in his career, beating Casper Ruud 7- 5, 6-4 to win the Miami Open, her third title.
With this victory, he is the third youngest ATP Masters 1000 champion in history, behind Nadal and Michael Chang. He has a stunning record this year of 18 wins and two losses, having won 28 of his last 31 sets, two of which were won by Nadal himself. In Miami alone, Alcaraz toppled three top-10 opponents with wins over No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, defending champion Hubert Hurkacz and Ruud. Ranked 133rd exactly a year ago, he is now on course to join them with his new ranking of 11.
Alcaraz’s breakthrough was propelled by an already so complete play, deadly in both defense and attack, and his only clear hole is the accuracy of his serve. His forehand is a totally destructive weapon, but his backhand is also extremely powerful and reliable. he is an excellent returner, probably the fastest player on the circuit at the moment and his variety is a defining point of his game, from his hearty drop shots to his willingness to come to the net. These strengths are linked by his innate intelligence, with his immense ability to solve problems and pick the right move at the right time. Throughout this week and this year, it all resulted in so many absurd shootouts with his wins.
A measure of the attention and excitement Alcaraz garnered was reflected in the Miami crowd’s enthusiastic support for him, with even a double fault from Ruud on the game’s second point prompting much applause. Alcaraz was out of sync early on, spraying forehands and telegraphing drop shots, but throughout the past month he has quickly learned to produce his best under pressure.
From 1-4, Alcaraz became a wall with his return of serve, he found the court with forehand hammer shots and he continually shut down points at the net. He won nine of the next 10 games and in the end he simply had too much game for the eighth best player in the world: “I have no words to describe how I feel right now”, a- he declared. “It’s so special to win my first Masters 1000 here in Miami. I have an incredible team with me.
Such prodigious talent may lend itself to overconfidence, but Alcaraz’s humility was striking. In his semi-final against Hurkacz, he offered to replay a point after a referee error. His coach, former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, was not in Miami after the recent death of his father, so Alcaraz punctuated each victory by writing messages of support to his
mentor on camera. On Saturday, Ferrero surprised Alcaraz by traveling to Miami for the final and he was the first person Alcaraz wanted when they won. As they kissed, Ferrero cried on his charge’s shoulder.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Jack Draper beat Zizou Bergs 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to win the ATP Challenger event in St Brieuc, France, already his fourth challenger title of the season after just three month. Draper, Britain’s most promising men’s player, will reach a career high of 124 after starting the year ranked 265th. It’s only a matter of time before he hits the top 100, giving him direct entry into the biggest tournaments.