Last updated on October 3, 2022
As the “Big 3” (Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer) of men’s tennis begin to retreat behind the curtain, a new generation of tennis players is emerging. Among these new names, one is already beginning to stand out from the rest: Carlos Alcaraz. Only 19 years old, he just became the youngest World No.1 now that he has won the 2022 US Open. Over the course of the past 2 years, he has done increasingly well, so far having his best run at the US Open, as he just won his first Grand Slam. He faced Casper Ruud, the 23-year old from Norway in the finals. He had quite a long journey to the championship match, with multiple matches lasting into the early hours of the morning. In fact, his last 3 matches before the final were taken to 5 sets (against Tiafoe, Sinner, and Čilić). All the pressure was on him to win the US Open, while Ruud was the underdog.
It is undeniable that he is doing exceptionally well for a 19 year old. Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras were also both 19 when they won their first Grand Slam, which makes Alcaraz’s trajectory look very promising. Over the last 2 decades, Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer have completely dominated the men’s tournament circuits. But the US Open proved that the new generation of players are ready to go and not going to give up. Djokovic will be increasingly unable to keep up as he is unvaccinated, and therefore barred from some tournaments. Federer is the oldest of the three, and has just announced his retirement. Nadal definitely still has some more in him, but it is no longer the norm for him to win. In fact, at this year’s US Open, he lost to Tiafoe in the Round of 16. As the Big 3 are no longer considered unbeatable, the door is open for a new star to emerge, and it may very well be Alcaraz.
His versatility as a player, on all surfaces but especially on hardcourts, along with his sportsmanship and charisma in front of a crowd have helped him grow a sturdy fanbase. Alcaraz is known for his drop shots and ability to run across the court, often sliding to help him cover more ground. He will run down almost anything, and hits many impulsive shots that often pay off. However, this style of playing comes with risks. After long matches in which he runs for anything, he runs the risk of tiring himself out too much, which can harm his performance in the next match. Sometimes his shots seem too adventurous to justify, and when he misses one too many of them, he might drop a game, or even a set. But even when he loses all momentum, all it takes is one point to swing in his favor, and all his mojo is back. This quality has already saved him multiple times this year. It might very well be “that little bit of magic” that he referenced in a press interview after beating Sinner in 5 sets.
Of course, it is still quite early in his career, and there’s many things that could change his trajectory. A new star could emerge, or Alcaraz could get injured. Some say it is too early to place these high expectations on him, but so far, he has kept up with them, proving how good he can be under pressure. Carlos Alcaraz is flying high at 19 years old, and if he keeps his current rate, he will become one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He is young enough to play outside the height of the Big 3’s reign, as well as talented enough to reach the top of the next generation. As he said himself, “Now is not the time to be tired.”