The heir of Spanish tennis has arrived. Rafa Nadal has been the Spanish king of tennis on the international circuit for over 15 years now, but he looks like his successor is in line to take the throne. Many have rightly pointed out that the Alcaraz is his natural successor, and no wonder. Since 2003, no Spaniard other than Nadal has managed to win a Grand Slam.
It’s no surprise that people have started to draw comparisons between the two players. Although Alcaraz has made a hugely impressive start to his tennis career, it’s impossible to predict if he’ll reach the insane heights of that of Nadal’s . Nadal is the most decorated player in history, with 22 Grand Slam titles to his name, which are currently more than both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic possess. He won the Australian Open twice, the Roland Garros Tournament in fourteen editions (being the tennis player who has won it the most times in history), Wimbledon twice and the US Open four times.
Having said that, perhaps a comparison between the 19-year-old Rafa Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz can give some insight into the Murcian tennis player’s trajectory, and whether he might be in with a shot of catching his compatriot.
Youngest ever world number 1
Alcaraz has become the youngest ever number one at just 19 years, 4 months and six days old. That is 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 this regard, ‘Carlitos’ has the edge over the 19-year-old Nadal. However, in the case of Nadal, we must also take into account that he snatched top spot off Roger Federer who at time, was at the peak of his career. Alcaraz’s current rivals for this position are arguably not as good as Federer was back then.
Although Alcaraz is now the youngest ever world number one, in 2003, aged just 17, Nadal became the youngest player ever to be in the world top 100. That year, he also became the youngest ever player to reach the third round of Wimbledon, something that only Boris Becker of Germany had achieved.
Interestingly, Nadal is the youngest male tennis player in history to achieve the Golden Slamwhich consists of winning all four Grand Slams and the gold medal at the Olympic Games during his career, an achievement shared only with Andre Agassi.
19, the magic number
It was in 2005, at 19 years of age, when Rafa Nadal announced himself on the international tennis scene in true style. He had a spectacular season that year, and capped it off with his first Grand Slam victory. On Sunday, June 5 2005, he became the fourth youngest player in history to win Roland Garros (at the age of nineteen years and two days), defeating Argentina’s Mariano Puerta in the final, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5. He also became the second player to win Roland Garros in his first appearance at the tournament behind Mats Wilander.
Having said that, in the 2005 US Open, the competition which Alcaraz has just won, Nadal only reached the third round after losing to James Blake 4-6, 6-4, 3-6 y 1-6.
And the winner is…
It’s difficult to separate when comparing them at 19 years of age. What we can be certain of is that being crowned world number one at just 19 years of age is an extraordinary achievement, and based on that alone, one could argue that Alcaraz has the advantage over 19-year-old Nadal. Having said that, Alcaraz has a long career ahead of him, and whether he maintains this high standard, like Rafa has done for well over 15 years, remains to be seen.