Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz. That’s it. That’s the list. The youngest players from Spain to lift a trophy on the ATP Challenger Tour.
On Sunday, the 17-year-old Alcaraz had his maiden moment in the spotlight, streaking to the title at the Challenger 100 event in Trieste, Italy. It was a marathon week for the teen, who won seven matches in nine days on the clay of the Tennis Club Triestino. After emerging from qualifying, he dropped just one set in the main draw, culminating in a 6-4, 6-3 win over home hope Riccardo Bonadio.
At the age of 17 years and three months, Alcaraz joined elite company with his maiden crown. Nadal is the only Spaniard who has won a Challenger title at a younger age. The former World No. 1 captured his first title in Barletta, Italy, as a 16-year-old and was two months younger than Alcaraz when he added a second crown on home soil in Segovia. In addition, Alcaraz is one of just four 17-year-olds from Spain to triumph on the circuit, joining Nadal, Nicola Kuhn and Nicolas Almagro.
Alcaraz is fast becoming one of the hottest young stars in the game and he put the entire circuit on notice this week, boasting an attacking mentality and bold shotmaking. Armed with a lethal arsenal from the baseline and a biting drop shot, the Spaniard isn’t afraid to use all corners of the court to plot his assault.
Youngest Challenger Champions Since 2010
|Felix Auger-Aliassime||16 years, 10 months||2017 Lyon|
|Felix Auger-Aliassime||17 years, 1 month||2017 Sevilla|
|Alexander Zverev||17 years, 2 months||2014 Braunschweig|
|Carlos Alcaraz||17 years, 3 months, 25 days||2020 Trieste|
|Nicola Kuhn||17 years, 3 months, 26 days||2017 Braunschweig|
|Jannik Sinner||17 years, 6 months||2019 Bergamo|
|Rudolf Molleker||17 years, 6 months||2018 Heilbronn|
After nearly six months on the sidelines, due to the COVID-19 hiatus, Alcaraz was itching to return to the court. The Spaniard, who had notched his first match win on the ATP Tour in February, in Rio de Janeiro, was eager to build on the momentum. Just two weeks into the restart, it did not take him long to rediscover his form.
Alcaraz became the youngest player to win an ATP Challenger Tour title since Felix Auger-Aliassime in 2017 (Sevilla). The Canadian was two months younger at the time. Also, he is the fourth-youngest winner since 2010, with only Auger-Aliassime (two titles) and Alexander Zverev lifting trophies at a younger age.
Having opened the year just inside the Top 500 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, the Murcia native is already closing in on the Top 200. He rises 93 spots to a career-high No. 217 on Monday.
Alcaraz spoke with ATPChallengerTour.com following his breakthrough win…
Carlos, congrats on winning your first Challenger title. How does it feel?
The truth is that this is an incredible moment for me, to win my first title. At the beginning of the week, I was hoping to get into qualifying at Roland Garros. I needed to do well at this tournament to get there. I achieved that and it’s a big prize for me.
To win your first title is never easy. What was the key this week? How did you get it done?
I just needed to play my game. And most imporantly, stay calm and focused on the court. I played at my level throughout all the matches. That was the key.
Talk about the final. Did you feel nervous today?
Actually, I felt more nervous yesterday [against Lorenzo Musetti]. I was pretty nervous then. But, I focused on relaxing myself as the match went on and it worked.
How important is a week like this as you are transitioning to the Challenger Tour?
There are a lot of [FedEx ATP Rankings] points at stake at the Challenger level. It’s a very good experience for me, to play at such a high level against really good players. It’s also good preparation for when I compete at the biggest tournaments.
After a five-month break, was it difficult to find your best level so quickly?
It’s been a long time since I last played a tournament. You never want to be away from competition for so long. But I worked hard with my physical trainer, kept in good shape and now I prepared well for these matches. That’s all.
You are working with Juan Carlos Ferrero. What has he brought to your game? How important has he been for your development?
The most important thing is that he helped me find the right attitude when I am playing. He was always calm and focused on the court and that is how I try to play.
What have you learned about your game at the Challenger level? How has your game grown?
On the Challenger Tour, there are really strong players. You have to give everything you have in every match. It’s different at this level. I’ve learned that you always have to play your best and keep the highest level of concentration against these players.
You are the youngest player from Spain to win a title since Rafael Nadal in 2003. How special is that, to be mentioned with Rafa?
I always say that I don’t like to be compared with Rafa, but this is a great achievement. I have to make my own path and I have to enjoy these moments as much as I can. I learned a lot this week.
For those of us who don’t know much about you, tell us something. Do you have any passions outside of tennis?
I love to play golf. Juan Carlos also likes to play and we try to do it together when we can. This is my passion when I’m not playing tennis.