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Posted By Peter Bonadio  
15:00 PM

Every year when we blow out our birthday candles, we hope that what we wish for will come true one day.  For up and coming star Carlos Alcaraz this dream came true on his 18th birthday.

The Spaniard played on centre court against his idol and countryman Rafael Nadal at the ATP Masters 1000 Madrid Open last week. Despite the 6-1 6-2 defeat to the world number 2, Alcaraz could walk off the court with his head held high as we got a glimpse of Spain’s next best talent.

The 18-year-old saying it was a birthday he would never forget.

“It's amazing, … to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him, … playing here in Madrid.

“It could [be] better if I could win, but I really enjoy[ed] [it]. I really learn[t] from him, and, yeah, I think this match made me grow up as a player. I [am] really happy to spend my birthday like this,” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz received high praise from Nadal who was impressed with the 18-year-old’s determination throughout the match. His backhand on the rise was a shot that got Nadal multiple times throughout the match.

“He's playing very aggressive. He has a lot of potential. He's a young and good guy … he already has a great level of tennis … but I really believe that he is going be a fantastic player in the near future,” Nadal said. 

Alcaraz has continued his rise up the rankings after the second-round defeat at the Madrid Masters. The Spaniard now sits at 114 in the world, a huge rise from outside the top 300 this time last year.

This ranking now will give the Spaniard direct entry into qualifying of the Grand Slams as well as some more opportunities for wildcards into ATP events as a ‘Next Gen’ talent.

This meteoric rise began after the suspension of play in the middle of 2020. Alcaraz made 4 ATP Challenger event finals winning three. His first Challenger title in Triste even more impressive, winning the event coming from qualifying.

With tougher matches in 2021 and entering larger tournaments, Alcaraz was able to reach his maiden Grand Slam main draw at the Australian Open making the second round before going down in a tight four-set match to Mikael Ymer.

Post the Australian summer, Alcaraz has been continuing to face many top 100 players with competitive results including a quarter final win against current top 20 player Casper Ruud at the ATP Marbella 250 tournament.

Seeing Alcaraz develop over the last year, he has begun to demonstrate a playing style and game that can win on all surfaces. A strong hard-hitting player who can find the angles to put him in the best position to win matches.

It is difficult not to compare the young Spaniard to his older compatriot Nadal, with Alcaraz clearly the best young talent in Spain, fast tracking to the top 100 at just 18.

In 2005 at the same age Nadal was inside the top 40 and had a win against a world number one (Roger Federer in Miami) and went on a winning frenzy dominating the season. He won his maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros and finished that year with a 79-10 win-loss record, 11 titles and the world number 2 ranking.

Fair to say Alcaraz has a long way to go, however, the 18-year-old is trending in the right direction. With his ranking continuing to rise and expected more direct entries into main draw tour events, if he can continue to get good results, his ranking will naturally progress. Top 100 is the first goal by season end (very achievable), who knows possible top 50. 

Alcaraz knows it as well. These experiences against tougher opponents will only continue to help his charge.

“Well, this match made me learn a lot, because, well, I have to know how to manage the tough moments and, well, know how to play against these kinds of players,

“I have to learn how to play against them. So, I think if I could play more matches like this, I will grow up … as a player faster,” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz will continue his push on the clay leg of the tour with hopes of qualifying or receiving a wildcard into the Roland Garros main draw.

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