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The rise of Carlos Alcaraz 

  • Matt Trollope

On Tuesday, Carlos Alcaraz was confirmed as the year-end world No.1, capping a dream season for the 19-year-old Spanish sensation. 

It was the latest milestone in a year defined by them, as Alcaraz collected five titles – one Grand Slam, two Masters 1000s and two more ATP 500s – and rose from outside the top 30 to the summit of the sport.

His ascent was so rapid that he was already in the top 10 by the end of April.

He is the youngest world No.1 in the near 50-year history of the ATP rankings, and he is expected to contest Australian Open 2023 in January as the top seed at a major tournament for the first time.

TICKETS: Catch Carlos Alcaraz in action at Australian Open 2023

We could see Alcaraz coming already in 2021, a year he began just inside the top 150 yet ended at world No.32 after several impressive results, including his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open.

We pick up the continuation of Alcaraz’s journey in February 2022, not long after he bowed out of AO 2022 with a third-round loss to Matteo Berrettini in five sets.

21 February 2022: Wins Rio de Janeiro title, cracks top 20
Alcaraz avenged his AO loss to Berrettini by beating the sixth-ranked Italian in the quarters in Rio, before going on to beat Diego Schwartzman to win the second – and at the time the biggest – title of his career. According to the ATP Tour, Alcaraz, at age 18, was the youngest player to win a 500-level title since the tournament category was introduced in 2009.
(Rankings rise after Rio: +9 to world No.20)

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19 March 2022: Reaches Indian Wells semis, pushes Rafa to the brink
Alcaraz carried his form across to the desert hard courts of Indian Wells, beating a succession of seeds – Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils and Cameron Norrie – without the loss of a set to reach his first Masters semifinal. There he fell to reigning AO champion Rafael Nadal, but only after pushing his legendary countryman for three hours and 12 minutes in a memorable battle. The loss ended Alcaraz’s 10-match winning streak.
(Rankings rise after Indian Wells: +3 to world No.16)

3 April 2022: Wins first Masters 1000 title in Miami
Alcaraz resumed his winning ways when he traversed the United States to play in Miami. He beat major winner Marin Cilic, third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, and reigning Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz to arrive in his first Masters final, where he beat Casper Ruud in straight sets. Between losing to Berrettini in Melbourne and Sebastian Korda in the first round in Monte Carlo, Alcaraz won 16 of his 17 matches.
(Rankings rise after Miami: +5 to world No.11)

Carlos Alcaraz Miami Open champion
Carlos Alcaraz poses with his trophy after winning the Miami Masters 1000 title. (Getty Images)

24 April 2022: Wins Barcelona title, cracks top 10
Back on clay and on home soil, Alcaraz beat Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals to take his record against the Greek to 3-0. He then saved match points against Alex de Minaur to progress to the final, where he cruised past fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta for his third title of the season. It made him the youngest player to crack the top 10 since Nadal achieved the same feat, at the same tournament, 17 years prior. A year earlier in Barcelona, Alcaraz was a 119th-ranked wildcard who fell in the first round.
(Rankings rise after Barcelona: +2 to world No.9)

8 May 2022: Masterful performance in Madrid
Brimming with confidence, Alcaraz attained a new level in the Spanish capital. He turned the tables on Nadal in the quarterfinals before scoring a thrilling three-set win over Novak Djokovic, becoming the first player to ever beat Nadal and Djokovic at the same clay-court event. His 6-3 6-1 dismantling of Alexander Zverev in the final meant he had beaten the tournament’s top three seeds in successive matches. Victory in Madrid put Alcaraz among the favourites for Roland Garros, where he extended his winning streak to 14 matches before Zverev snapped that in the quarterfinals.
(Rankings rise after Madrid: +3 to world No.6)

Novak Djokovic (L) congratulates Carlos Alcaraz at net after the young Spaniard won their Madrid Masters semifinal 6-7(5) 7-5 7-6(5). (Getty Images)

31 July 2022: Back-to-back finals in Hamburg and Umag
After a fourth-round loss to Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon, Alcaraz returned to clay and notched back-to-back finals in Hamburg and Umag where he lost, respectively, to Italians Lorenzo Musetti and Sinner (again). Nevertheless, each week he improved one place in the rankings – he cracked the top five after Hamburg – to continue his accent.
(Rankings rise after Hamburg and Umag: +2 to world No.4)

11 September 2022: Wins US Open, becomes world No.1
Alcaraz produced one of the most memorable Grand Slam fortnights with his path through the US Open draw. After a five-set win over Cilic to reach the quarters, he finally flipped the script against Sinner – but only after saving a match point in a universally-acclaimed five-hour contest. He then beat Frances Tiafoe in an electric five-set semifinal, becoming the first player since Andre Agassi 17 years earlier to reach a major final after three straight five-setters. In a rematch of the Miami final, with the No.1 ranking the prize for the winner, Alcaraz got past Ruud in four sets. At age 19, he became the only teenaged player to ever hold world No.1 ranking since ATP rankings were introduced in 1973.
(Rankings rise after US Open: +3 to world No.1)

ALCARAZ ARRIVES: US Open champion and youngest-ever world No.1

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15 November 2022: Clinches year-end No.1 ranking
Alcaraz stayed in the No.1 position for the rest of the year, which ended in disappointment when an oblique muscle tear – sustained at the Paris Masters – ruled him out of the season-ending ATP Finals and Davis Cup Finals. Nevertheless, Nadal’s ATP Finals elimination ensured Alcaraz would claim the year-end top ranking. Alcaraz finished the season with five titles from seven finals and a 57-13 win-loss record (a winning percentage of 81.43 per cent).