Spain has been graced with one of the greatest athletes to ever walk this earth over the past 18 years, with Rafael Nadal dazzling the globe with his prowess on the tennis court.
He burst onto the scene in 2003 where he recorded a sensational win over idol Carlos Moya in Monte Carlo, and two years later at 19-years-old, he was a Grand Slam champion.
Now come 2022, he leads the all time men’s grand slam tally with 21, eclipsing both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic with his remarkable second Australian Open title in January, arguably his greatest Grand Slam title.
You couldn’t ask for more as a Spanish tennis fan.
Well it turns out you could, in the form of teenage wunderkind, Carlos Alcaraz.
The rise of the 18-year-old has been meteoric, and quite frankly a joy to watch.
2021 saw him win his maiden Grand Slam match at the Australian Open, face his idol Nadal on his birthday, win his first title in Umag, progress to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time and claim the ATP NextGen Finals in Milan.
But in just a few short months so far in 2022, Alcaraz has reached a new stratosphere by dispatching everyone in his path to take home his first ATP 500 title, reach the semifinals at Indian Wells where it took a gladiatorial effort from Nadal to beat him, take a first Masters 1000 title in Miami, record a second 500 title in Barcelona and now he’s broken the top 10.
He could retire now and still have had a better career than most, but if his idol’s career is anything to go by, the uncanny similarities could set Alcaraz up for one of the most glorious careers in tennis history.
Nadal’s first title came in Sopot in 2004 when he was 18, Alcaraz did the same in Umag last year.
At the beginning of Nadal’s breakout year of 2005, he would commence the season in pushing a top 10 player to five sets at the Australian Open, falling after a titanic battle with eventual finalist Lleyton Hewitt.
Alcaraz’s breakout season has also seen him almost overcome a top 10 opponent at the Australian Open, coming from two sets down against Matteo Berrettini to force a decider before ultimately going down.
In 2005 Nadal would also go on to claim titles in February, winning in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco, the younger Spaniard won Rio.
Continuing on, and Rafa would take home a maiden Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo in 2005, with Alcaraz doing the same in Miami.
The most scary comparison yet is that Nadal’s foray into the top 10, which is still an active streak 17 years later, occurred on April 25 after he won the Barcelona title, the fifth of his career.
Alcaraz has entered the top 10 on, you guessed it, April 25 after winning the Barcelona title, which is the fourth of his short career so far.
Even the physique is similar, both opting for the sleeveless shirts at times to show off the serious weaponry of biceps that they possess, Nadal never looked 18 and neither does Alcaraz.
If Carlos decides to wear three quarter pants to play in a tournament soon the entire tennis world might just crumble with how similar they are.
Rafa and Roger Federer have set some supreme examples over their careers, with grace and humility at the forefront of who they are, and it is no surprise that Alcaraz, who adores both of them, is following suit.
He is humble, respectful and plays the game in a wonderful spirit, which is all we can ask for in a champion.
Alcaraz would be thrilled with a career half as wonderful as Nadal’s, but it does not seem to be in his nature with his hunger on show in every point that he plays.
In an era where the Big 3 might just fading away, someone needs to take the reigns.
The young gun might still have a bit of work to do to beat Rafa, but who knows, it might just happen this week in Madrid.