Carlos Alcaraz is slowly replacing Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as the new man to beat in men’s tennis, with one of his rivals now using him as a benchmark. The 19-year-old became the youngest world No 1 in ATP history when he ascended to the top after winning his first Major at the US Open, cementing himself as the sport’s biggest young prospect.
Alcaraz had long been tipped to become the heir to the Big Three throne and has more than proved himself this year, becoming the first teenager to win a Grand Slam since Nadal himself 17 years ago, also picking up two Masters titles and two ATP 500s and becoming the first teen ever to ascend to world No 1.
And it appears that his rivals also see him as the man to beat, with Alcaraz starting to take over from the likes of Djokovic and Nadal as the benchmark for his opponents to beat after Lorenzo Musetti explained how much it meant to get a win over the young Spaniard. The Italian blew five match points in the second set of the Hamburg final but still managed to beat Alcaraz 6-4 6-7(6) 6-4 to lift the trophy.
“When you manage to beat someone like Alcaraz in a final, it fills you with confidence and you know that you are going in the right direction,” the world No 24 has now told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It doesn’t mean that you are always good and win every game, but having hope in your path is essential.”
With the 20-year-old using Alcaraz as his comparison point rather than the likes of Djokovic and Nadal, it signals a shift in who the young players now believe is the top dog in the game. Musetti was ranked down at No 64 at the time of his title win in Hamburg while Alcaraz was the No 6, and the Italian’s win is now even more impressive given what the Spaniard went on to achieve in New York.
Speaking at the time of his victory at the ATP 500 event, Musetti said: “I have no words because it was a roller-coaster until the end. I had so many match points. Carlos was so good on the match points, [I had] so many chances.
“But I think the key of the match was to keep calm and [have] all the patience [with] myself because it was really not easy. Carlos was putting so much effort in the match points when he was down, so it was not easy to find the energy to come back.”
Alcaraz has played just one tournament since becoming the world No 1 and suffered a shock defeat to lucky loser David Goffin in the first round of the Astana Open. He will be back in action in Basel next week before playing the Paris Masters 1000 and making his debut at the ATP Finals, a year after winning the Next Gen version of the season-ending event.