Carlos Alcaraz, a teenage emerging prodigy from El Palmar, Murcia, Spain, surprised world number one Novak Djokovic in a three-set thriller to reach the Madrid Open 2022 final.

While teen prodigies are not uncommon in tennis, Alcaraz’s accomplishments and stratospheric climb in the ATP Rankings have piqued the athletic world’s interest in the possibility of a future star.

Alcaraz, nicknamed ‘Carlitos,’ was born on May 5, 2003. He began playing tennis when he was four years old.

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Alcaraz practices at the JC Ferrero Equelite Sport Academy in Villena, which is coached by countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won the French Open and rose to World No. 1.

He went pro in 2018. Alcaraz, who was only three months shy of his 17th birthday, made his ATP Tour main draw debut as a wildcard at the ATP500 event in Rio de Janeiro in 2020. In the first round, Alcaraz defeated fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas (then world number 41) 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(2) before falling to Argentina’s Federico Coria in three sets in the second.

Why is Alcaraz special?

Alcaraz finished 2020 among the world’s top 150 players thanks to consistent performances on the Challenger Tour.

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Alcaraz took things to the next level in 2021. He made his Grand Slam and Masters 1000 debuts, as well as winning his maiden ATP Tour championship on clay in Umag, Croatia. In November, he also won the year-end Next Gen Finals in Milan, a tournament featuring some of the most promising young players on tour. He almost made his Davis Cup debut, but he tested positive for COVID-19.

However, what may have presented the case for Alcaraz being exceptional occurred at the US Open in September. While Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez were raising havoc on the women’s side, Alcaraz was penning his story on the men’s side.

After defeating British Cameron Norrie and Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in the first two rounds in New York, the flamboyant Spaniard faced then-world number three and French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the third round at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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Alcaraz startled the Greek by striking hard and stretching the limits of his retrieving abilities, taking a 2 set to 1 lead. Tsitsipas rebounded and then dominated his opponent in the fourth set, winning 6-0. The decisive set was where Alcaraz demonstrated his mental fortitude. Despite the fact that he required treatment for his legs and lower back, he fought hard and eventually won the match in a tiebreaker.

Tsitsipas said after the loss, “He can be a contender for Grand Slam titles. He has the game to be there.”

Alcaraz was seeded 31st in the Australian Open in 2022, his first Grand Slam seeding. And he was prepared for it as well. Six-foot-one-inch tall, with massive biceps protruding from the sleeveless tops he was wearing in Melbourne, he demonstrated the amount of effort he had put in over the off-season. He rallied from two sets behind to draw the match against Italian great Matteo Berrettini in the third round but lost an agonising fifth-set tiebreak.

Two weeks after his loss in Melbourne, Alcaraz avenged himself in Rio, defeating Berrettini in the quarterfinals on his route to becoming the ATP500’s youngest champion. He played his debut ATP Tour main draw match at the same stadium only two years ago.

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He then advanced to the semifinals of the Indian Wells Masters, where he lost a gruelling three-set encounter against countryman and 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in what many referred to as a “generational battle.”

Alcaraz finished his hard court season on a high note, becoming the youngest Miami Masters winner. He is the third-youngest Masters1000 champion in history and the first Spaniard to win the title in Miami.

The explosive game style of right-handed Alcaraz, which includes a lethal drop shot and excellent court coverage, is reminiscent of a young Rafael Nadal

Alcaraz’s game is modelled after Nadal’s Swiss opponent Roger Federer. Alcaraz stated in an interview with Tennis TV prior to his ATP Tour debut against Ramos-Vinolas, “I like to play aggressively with a lot of winners. My style is more or less like Federer’s, aggressively coming to the net and playing drop shots, trying to do what Federer does.”

Nobody would object if Alcaraz turned out to be a cross between Federer’s flare and Nadal’s “never give up” attitude.