Photo: Archives Istra D.M.C
The new tennis star, and the youngest player in history who has been ranked World No 1, won his first professional tennis tournament in Umag in 2021
It’s the 2022 US Open finals and tennis history is being written in Flushing Meadows. More than 20,000 people at the Arthur Ashe Stadium are entranced. The scoreboard shows Carlos Alcaraz – Casper Ruud 2:1 (sets), 5:3 (fourth set) and 40:30, and the young Spaniard is about to serve. Only one point stands between him and his first Grand Slam victory – only one point between him and sporting immortality. Cool as a gunman from a film by Sergio Leone, he delivers his serve to Ruud’s backhand side. The Norwegian player is powerless and is able just to touch the ball with his racket. The match is over. Alcaraz has won the New York tournament with a service winner on his second match point. At that moment, Carlos Alcaraz was 19 years, 4 months and 6 days old. Tennis history books could start to be re-written.
Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest winner of a Grand Slam tournament since Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005, the youngest US Open winner since Pete Sampras in 1990, the first person born in the 2000s to win a major singles title, and the youngest ever World No 1 player in the history of tennis. He is also the third player to reach a major final having won three consecutive five-set matches, after Stefan Edberg at the 1992 US Open and Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open.
‘It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, since I started playing tennis. I wanted to be No 1 in the world and be champion of a Grand Slam, but I never thought I would achieve it at the age of 19. I want to be at the top for many, many weeks – hopefully many years,’ the emerging tennis star said in New York. He is the next big thing, as the Americans say.
A year and a couple of months earlier, the Spanish tennis sensation’s story started in Croatia or, to be more precise, at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open, which has been a regular stop in the ATP Tour calendar since 1990. Umag and tennis – theirs is a love story over 30 years long, a special emotion shared by Goran Ivanišević, Novak Djokovic, Thomas Muster, Carlos Moya, Marcelo Rios, Stanislas Wawrinka and many other tennis greats who have played on the Istrian clay court.
Carlos Alcaraz came of age in the summer of 2021, but the 31st edition of the tournament showed his maturity in tennis. In the match against Richard Gasquet, 17 years his senior, Alcaraz lost only four games in two sets to the French player (6:2, 6:2), making the history of the Umag tournament as its youngest winner. The time has shown that the trophy he won in Umag was just the first of many to be displayed in Carlos’s trophy room. Last year, Carlos returned to the Plava Laguna Croatia Open, but in the finals played by tennis stars of the future, Alcaraz had to bow to the Italian Jannik Sinner after a three-set match.
‘Winning my first ATP tournament was great. I enjoyed the moment. I had a lot of good moments, I beat five really good tennis players, and my play developed during the week in Umag’, said Alcaraz, whose coach Juan Carlos Ferrero had won the Umag tournament back in 2010.