Can Carlos Alcaraz Emulate Rafael Nadal? The Inside Track on the US Open Champion

Carlos Alcaraz looks to be on the precipice of greatness. He has enjoyed a meteoric rise and taken the tennis world by storm. Everything all culminated perfectly together when he wrapped up his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in New York.

For tennis aficionados, Alcaraz’s rapid progress may not have come as much of a surprise, and he is among the new wave of talent that is threatening the dominance of the traditional ‘Big Three’. One needs only to take a look at some of the most reputable betting sites listed on to see that the Spaniard’s odds are looking better every day to win his next major.

It’s time to unmask the brilliance of Carlos Alcaraz by assessing where he came from and what we can expect from him in the future.

Challenger Tour debut


With most tennis players of this generation, the ATP Challenger Tour is a well-trodden path. As a wiry 15-year-old, Alcaraz announced himself as he beat Jannik Sinner in three sets at the Alicante Challenger. In doing so, he carved out his own bit of history by becoming the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP match.

Arguably, this would set the tone for future clashes between the pair, but even on the Challenger Tour, Alcaraz showed just what he would be capable of.

Alcaraz captured four titles on the Challenger Tour, and he later admitted that the circuit set the perfect platform in terms of giving him the experience and belief to compete on the main ATP Tour.

What is even more remarkable, was that Alcaraz landed his first Challenger Tour prize at the age of 17, with only Rafael Nadal claiming a title at a younger age, so perhaps he was destined for greatness.

Finding joy with Juan Carlos Ferrero


Behind every top male player is a top coach. And Alcaraz is blessed that he was taken under Juan Carlos Ferrero’s wing. Ferrero first met Alcaraz when he was 12 years old, and he noticed something different in Alcatraz compared to other boys of his age.

When asked for his initial thoughts about meeting Alcaraz, Ferrero said: “When he arrived at the academy he was a noodle, he was quick, but he didn’t have muscles, but we did see something very special.

“Officially, I went to see him when he got his first ATP point at the age of 14. I saw that match, in which he played a set very well and in the second he hit a big mess.

“But you could see that at 14 years old and without a physique, he competed with what were tough rivals for him.”

Ferrero of course enjoyed Grand Slam success when he was a player and arguably things came full circle after retirement as he moved into coaching. While unearthing the next gem or precious diamond can be tricky, few would have been prouder than Ferrero when he saw his compatriot scale the heights of men’s tennis.

A bull-like mentality


What is apparent from watching Alcaraz over the past 18 months is the way he engages with the crowd. While his coverage of the court is impressive as he lunges for returns and he makes shots that at times are scarcely believable, it is his single-minded focus that is noteworthy.

Whereas the likes of Nadal intimidate with shouts of ‘VAMOS’, Alcaraz is something of a silent assassin. The fist pump is common, but he likes to feed off the energy of the stadium he’s playing in by staring down the crowd or pulling a face to place matches into some context, or rather to demonstrate how he is feeling at a particular moment in time.

If anything, Alcaraz has this bull-like mentality. Like the matador’s red cape, there is nothing stopping Alcaraz from charging toward it. He has already improved immeasurably in each aspect of his game, and he can adeptly combine power with finesse which makes him very exciting to watch.

Rafael Nadal parallel


Given his Spanish roots, naturally, there are going to be parallels between himself and Nadal. Of course, Nadal has transcended tennis in a way that few others have and he tops the list of male players with the most Grand Slam titles (22 and counting), and it is unclear yet when he will walk away from the game.

At 19, Alcaraz had the world at his feet and he could enjoy a long and distinguished career. There is a single-minded focus on Alcaraz and he has a good coaching set-up.

When he was younger, Alcaraz was fortunate to meet Nadal and it would have been not to have been awe-struck by his idol. Earlier this year, Alcaraz lifted the Madrid Open, but he did something that few players have managed to achieve when he beat Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive days on clay (quarter-final and semi-finals).

Nadal has a killer instinct on the court that Alcaraz is fast developing. But perhaps one obvious parallel between the two is that both players put everything on the line, and they will always make their opponents play a final ball.

Gazing into the future

In tennis, using a crystal ball can be eminently dangerous. With Nadal and Djokovic still around, the onus is on the younger talent to rise to the challenge and topple the top order permanently.

Alcaraz isn’t alone as the likes of Sinner, Casper Ruud, and Felix Auger-Aliassime have caught the eye. However, having hit the top spot in the rankings, Alcaraz has adopted a new role of being the hunted as opposed to the hunter, so it will be fascinating to see whether he will be able to cope under the intense spotlight.

Although Alcaraz is in the nascent stages of his career and he has a long way to go to overhaul Nadal, he has the luxury of time on his side. Anything, therefore, is possible.