Carlos Alcaraz cites Rafael Nadal as his tennis idol and his heavy topspin groundstrokes could be viewed as a tribute. But the 16-year-old Spaniard sees his game more closely resembling another ATP Tour legend.
”I like to play very aggressively, with a lot of winners. My style is more or less like Roger Federer’s, aggressively coming to the net and playing a lot of drop shots,” Alcaraz said.
Alcaraz has already accomplished something that Federer could not: winning his ATP Tour debut. The 16-year-old defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Monday at the Rio Open presented by Claro, outlasting the veteran Spaniard in a third-set tie-break that finished at 3:00am after three hours and 36 minutes.
He made fans sit up and take notice with his outstanding play, pushing Ramos-Vinolas around the baseline for much of their clash. Alcaraz tirelessly chased down balls in the early morning hours and held his nerve to close out the biggest moment of his fledgling career.
The 16-year-old has largely eschewed junior tournaments for pro events and has already made noise on the ATP Challenger Tour. Last year, the then-15-year-old defeated reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner at a Challenger in Alicante, becoming the first player born in the year 2003 to win a match at that level. The following week in Murcia, he became just the fifth player aged 15-and-under in the past 20 years to defeat a Top 200 player.
Alcaraz’s talent was quickly noticed by former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who now coaches the young Spaniard. Ferrero is confident that his pupil could soon find himself in the mix as a contender for the biggest titles on the ATP Tour.
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“He’s only 16 and he’s just starting to travel the world. He has the level, the speed, he’s getting better physically every day, so I think he can be one of the best,” Ferrero said. “I don’t know how high, but I think he can be up there in two or three years. I have a lot of experience with what he is going to deal with, [so] I’m giving him the best advice that I can.”
Alcaraz has been soaking in the week in Rio, making the most of his training sessions with top players and viewing his match with Ramos-Vinolas as an invaluable learning experience. The modest teenager is content to listen for now, preferring to let his racquet do the talking when he steps on court.
”When I spend time with tennis greats like Rafa or Ferrero or any other player, I don’t say anything. I listen to everything they say because it is very valuable to me,” Alcaraz said. “In each tournament I go to, I try to do my best. If that happens, then I will gradually go up.”