The heir to Spanish tennis is here. Rafa Nadal has been the Spanish king of tennis on the international stage for over 15 years, but it looks like his successor is set to take the throne. Many have rightly pointed out that the Alcaraz is its natural successor, and it’s no wonder. Apart from Nadal, no Spaniard has managed to win a Grand Slam since 2003.
It’s no surprise that people have started drawing comparisons between the two players. Although Alcaraz has had an extremely impressive start to his tennis career, it is impossible to predict if he will reach Nadal’s insane heights. Nadal is the most successful player in history with 22 Grand Slam titles, which is currently more than both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic own. He has won the Australian Open twice, the fourteen-time Roland Garros tournament (as the tennis player who has won it most in history), Wimbledon twice and the US Open four times.
However, a comparison between 19-year-old Rafa Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz can perhaps provide some insight into the Murcian tennis player’s trajectory and whether he might have a chance of catching his compatriot.
Youngest number 1 in the world ever
Alcaraz is the youngest number one ever at just 19 years, 4 months and 6 days. That’s significantly younger than Nadal when he was first crowned world number one. In fact, there’s a three-year difference between the two: Nadal was named world number one at 22 years, 2 months and 15 days. In that regard, ‘Carlitos’ has the edge over 19-year-old Nadal. However, in the case of Nadal, we must also take into account that he took the top spot from Roger Federer, who was at the peak of his career at the time. Alcaraz’s current rivals for the position are arguably not as good as Federer was back then.
Although Alcaraz is now the youngest ever world number one, In 2003, at the age of just 17, Nadal became the youngest player ever to make the world top 100. That year he also became the youngest player to ever reach the third round of Wimbledon, something only Boris Becker of Germany had achieved.
Interesting, Nadal is the youngest male tennis player in history to reach the Golden Slamwhich consists of winning all four Grand Slams and the gold medal at the Olympics during his career, a feat shared only with Andre Agassi.
19, the magic number
It was 2005 when Rafa Nadal, at the age of 19, announced himself in style on the international tennis scene. He had a spectacular season that year and capped it off with his first Grand Slam victory. On Sunday, On June 5, 2005, he became the fourth youngest player in history to win Roland Garros (aged nineteen years and two days)., defeated the Argentinian Mariano Puerta in the final 6:7, 6:3, 6:1, 7:5. He became that too second player to win Roland Garros in his first appearance at the tournament behind Mats Wilander.
However, at the 2005 US Open, the competition Alcaraz had just won, Nadal only reached the third round after losing to James Blake 4-6 6-4 3-6 1-6.
And the winner is…
It’s difficult to separate when you compare them at 19 years old. We can be sure that being crowned world no. However, Alcaraz has a long career ahead of him and whether he will maintain that high standard as Rafa has done for well over 15 years remains to be seen.