This time last year, Carlos Alcaraz, the 18-year-old Spanish tennis player to whom the term “prodigy” doesn’t quite do justice, was still outside the top 100 players in the world. He had received a wildcard entry into the Barcelona Open and promptly lost his first-round match against American Frances Tiafoe in straight sets. On Sunday, Alcaraz beat Pablo Carreño Busta 6-3, 6-2, to win the Barcelona Open and crack the ATP Top-10 rankings, becoming the youngest player to make it into the Top 10 since his countryman and idol, Rafael Nadal, did it in 2005. Alcaraz’s blazing ascent has, by now, caught everyone’s attention—and he’s ready for it.
“I’ve always been a normal guy. I’m not scared of fame, I’m not going to change the person I am,” Alcaraz said after winning the title. “I’m happy to know that at 18 years old I’m in the Top 10, and to do it [at] the same age as my idol Rafa is impressive.”
As usual, Alcaraz’s win in Barcelona was defined by his physicality and ability to overpower his opponents. He’s going to be tormenting people with winners like these for years to come:
As dominating as Alcaraz was in the final, it was his performance in the semifinal that really highlighted just how good he’s become in such a short period of time. Just hours before defeating Carreño Busta, he put together a gutsy comeback win over Alex de Minaur in the semifinal, which was postponed to Sunday due to rain. Fending off two match points, the teenager seemed looser and more relaxed than ever, which perhaps helped him pull off this ridiculous winner to stay alive.
If you had to pick one shot to encapsulate the creativity and fearlessness that makes Alcaraz such a thrilling player, this is the one. With the match on the line, practically too fast for his own good, he overruns De Minaur’s approach shot before dancing his way around it to knock a forehand winner down the line, winning the point and then the set and then the match. You know, the kind of thing normal guys do.