To many on the outside, Carlos Alcaraz lifting the US Open trophy looked like the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. To Alcaraz himself, however, his first grand slam triumph is only the beginning.
It’s telling of the 19-year-old’s determined character and competitive nature that he already has his sights set on another grand slam win in 2023.
Alcaraz’s victory in New York after two weeks of grueling tennis – the youngster played three consecutive marathon five-set matches in the rounds leading into the final – makes him the youngest player to win a grand slam since Rafael Nadal lifted the first of his 14 French Open titles in 2005.
Both hailing from Spain and being naturals on clay, the comparisons between Alcaraz and Nadal were inevitable. Despite idolizing Nadal while growing up, Alcaraz has always batted away ‘the next Nadal’ or ‘mini Nadal’ monikers, instead insisting he wants to carve out his own legacy.
On Sunday, he took the first – and perhaps hardest – step on that journey.
“I worked really, really hard the last couple of years, I suffered a lot as well on this path to reach this trophy,” Alcaraz told CNN Sport’s Carolyn Manno after his four-set win over Casper Ruud. “Of course, it’s time to still keep working, to stay at the top for many years or try to get more grand slams.
“It’s not always happy on the path, you have to suffer a lot, a lot of tough moments in your life, so you have to overcome that. I worked, really, really hard for this.
“I’ve got the first one at 19 years old, I hope to get another one next year, but I suffered a lot these two weeks, so I know it’s really, really tough to get a grand slam, but I will work for another one. I will fight to get another one and so this is a goal for me next year.”
With his victory, Alcaraz also claims the No. 1 world ranking for the first time, becoming the youngest player in ATP history to do so. It’s a fitting way to cap what has been an astonishing breakout year for the young man from El Palmar in the region of Murcia.
After winning his maiden ATP title in 2021, Alcaraz has flourished further in 2022, winning four titles – including two Masters 1000 tournaments – to rise up the rankings from No. 32 at the start of the year.
Sunday’s battle against Ruud is a match-up tennis fans are likely to see much more of in the future, with the Norwegian tipped by many to be a future grand slam champion.
After clinching match point, a visibly emotional Alcaraz fell to floor, though that likely could have been as much down to exhaustion as it was emotion. He somehow managed to find the strength to climb through the stands to reach his supporter’s box, sharing hugs with friends, family and his coach, former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
“This moment means a lot to me, it’s something I was looking for since I started playing tennis,” Alcaraz said after his victory. “I worked really, really hard to be able to lift this trophy today, to become the best player in the world. For me, this feeling is indescribable, so this trophy means a lot to me.
“I thought about when I started playing tennis and, of course, all of my family, all of my coaches during my life, everything from what I was a kid. When you are a kid, you always dream about a lot of things and to be No. 1 in the world and to be a champion of a grand slam were dreams for me.
“So right now lifting this trophy is a dream come true for me, so I’m so happy.”
Nadal was among the first people to offer plaudits for Alcaraz’s achievement, with some viewing his victory in New York as the official passing of the torch for Spanish tennis.
“Congratulations @carlosalcaraz for your first Grand Slam and for the number 1 ranking, which is the culmination of your first great season and of which I am sure there will be many more!” the 22-time grand slam champion wrote on Twitter.
With the skill, will and determination that were on display in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday, it looks as if Spain will continue to have tennis glory to celebrate for years to come.