Just as Rafael Nadal is approaching the twilight of his career, Spain has unearthed the next superstar of men’s tennis in teenager Carlos Alcaraz.
The 19-year-old from Murcia completed a stunning week on Sunday night when he won the Madrid Open by annihilating defending champion Alex Zverev 6-3, 6-1 in a final that lasted just 62 minutes.
Alcaraz becomes the youngest winner of this significant clay-court title and it is his second Masters level trophy of the season after his triumph at the Miami Open.
Spain has unearthed the next superstar of men’s tennis in in-form teenager Carlos Alcaraz
‘You are the best player in the world right now, even though you are five years old,’ Zverev jokingly told him at the presentation ceremony.
There can be little arguing with the first part of that after three days that saw him defeat Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the world No 3 Zverev in succession.
The two titans will dispute that, however, and may prove otherwise at Roland Garros — which starts later this month.
It also remains to be seen whether Alcaraz can maintain such a formidable level in a best-of-five set match.
Alex Zverev (R) joked Alcaraz is ‘five years old’ after losing to the starlet at the Madrid Open
The bookies suspect that he can, with him moving ahead of Djokovic to second favourite for Paris following this latest triumph.
Coached by former world number No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz will already be up to world No 6 on Monday, having started the season at 32.
He strikes the ball early and supremely cleanly off both flanks and has a soft touch, including an exquisite drop shot that wrongfoots opponents.
There is some context needed to this result, as conditions in Madrid are lively due to the altitude.
Alcaraz will move up to world No 6 this week, despite starting the season back in 32nd spot
Also, due to the tournament’s abysmal scheduling, Zverev finished well past midnight the previous evening when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. However, the German has a good record in the Spanish capital.
Alcaraz made a slightly nervous start, before beginning to show how his game has virtually no holes to punch through. From 3-2, he brought the hammer down, surging thereafter to take the first set in just 32 minutes.
Zverev then faded very badly in the second set, losing the last five games and with that the match. Alcaraz later said he was withdrawing from this week’s Italian Open.
He made a nervous start in the final but brought the hammer down, with his opponent fading
In the men’s doubles final, Liverpool’s Neal Skupski continued his outstanding start to the year as he took the title with Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof.
The duo claimed their first Masters level trophy with a 6-7, 6-4, 10-5 win over the Colombian pair of Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal.
Meanwhile, the Italian Open, the last significant tournament to be played ahead of the French Open, begins in earnest on Monday.
Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion, has an intriguing first round as she faces the 2019 New York winner, Bianca Andreescu.
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