Editor’s note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es
The future is bright for Carlos Alcaraz, one of the ATP Tour’s biggest stars at just 19 years old. The Spaniard has enjoyed a rapid rise in a sport in which careers are becoming ever longer, and where experience often rules over youth on the professional circuit. It seems nothing can slow the momentum of the Murcia native, however, who already appears on course for another historic season.
The emergence of Alcaraz’s special talent goes against the grain of the current trend. There have never been more players in the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings over the age of 30 than there are now. Never have so many players resisted the pulls of retirement. However, the Spaniard is setting records for precociousness almost every time he steps on court.
In that battle against time, the 2023 BNP Paribas Open represents an opportunity for this young pretender to stare down the players with whom he will share his future in the game. Young players destined to occupy the upper echelons of tennis, those with whom he may have to battle for the biggest titles in years to come. These generational peers, whose arrival in the game comes in parallel with that of Alcaraz, are proving to be his strongest adversaries on court.
By way of example, alongside the Spaniard, there are currently three players under 23 years of age in the Top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Canadian player Felix Auger-Aliassime, Dane Holger Rune and the Italian Jannik Sinner. None of them, unlike the vast majority of other players, has a negative record against the Spanish prodigy. In Indian Wells, Carlos is preparing for the second of back-to-back clashes against two of them.
Auger-Aliassime, charged with stopping the Spaniard in the quarter-finals, was the perfect litmus test for Alcaraz’s toughness. The 22-year-old World No. 10 had won all of his duels with the young star prior to Friday’s match, unlike any other player on Tour. A 3-0 ATP Head2Head in favour of the North American gave Alcaraz something unique in his career: an unbeaten nemesis on the other side of the net.
The Murcia native had never even broken the Canadian’s serve in their three encounters. His 6-4, 6-4 win in Indian Wells therefore represents a true statement of intent against one of his biggest rivals.
“I knew that I had to stand strong,” admitted Alcaraz after overcoming Auger-Aliassime in California. “The previous matches were close. In the Davis Cup I had chances, but in Basel I remember I let my head drop a bit. My goal was not to give up, I might have more chances and, if they came, I had to make the most of them. I did it, I had one of my best matches of the year.”
Dismantling that wall has earned Alcaraz another generational examination. In the semi-finals, he will face 21-year-old Jannik Sinner. The Italian is one of the few players to have a tied ATP Head2Head series with Alcaraz after multiple matches (2-2). To say their most recent encounter was intense is an understatement.
Alcaraz and Sinner’s epic five-set 2022 US Open quarter-final may have fallen the way of the Spaniard, but it provided further evidence of how strong the peers of his generation are. The player from Murcia converted a match point after five hours and 15 minutes of play, at 2:50am, the latest finish in the history of the New York Grand Slam.
“At the end of the match, I had nothing left,” Alcaraz said after surviving one of the most spectacular and intense matches of 2022. “It was genuinely tough for me. The level of tennis we played was so high from start to finish. I made a big effort to stay focused, giving everything on every point. I needed to trust myself at all times.”
“Carlos is the type of player that makes you raise your game,” said Sinner at the time. “I’ve had tough defeats in my career, and this tops the list. It will hurt me for some time, I have to try and find the positive lessons. I know it will be tough. I have to improve and trust that next time I will get the win.”
The next chapter in their rivalry has come quickly. In Indian Wells, they will be competing for a place in an ATP Masters 1000 final and the chance to battle it out for one of the biggest trophies of the year. It is a clear sign of the calibre of tennis the two are producing, and a prospect that Alcaraz finds enticing.
“I feel happy I’m playing against him. We’ve had great battles,” said the World No. 2 in California. “I always enjoy our matches. It’ll be a great match for the fans and also for me. I’ve tried to give 100%, Jannik is playing great and I’m going to enjoy this match.”
In the Coachella Valley, a place graced by so many legends of the game, Alcaraz is looking to stamp his authority against one of his great rivals of the future.