Carlos Alcaraz emulates hero Rafael Nadal by reaching Wimbledon final at 20… the boy who would be king now has his own shot at grass-court glory
‘I want to be like Rafa Nadal,’ says a 13-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in an old interview that went viral again in Spain this week. On Sunday, he emulates his hero by matching his feat of reaching his first Wimbledon final aged only 20.
‘I want to be like Rafa. He trains very hard and he makes sacrifices,’ the boy who would be king told reporters. He had only just been born when Nadal debuted on the circuit but the twice Wimbledon winner would be an inspiration throughout his formative years.
The second of four tennis-mad brothers (Alvaro, Jaime and Sergio) Carlos started playing when he was just three at the Tenis club in El Palmar in Murcia owned by his father Carlos who had been Murcia Champion in the eighties and number 42 in Spain.
By the age of seven it was clear he had something special but despite having been a player himself, his father shied away from being his son’s coach because he had seen how it had had a detrimental effect on the relationship between other top Spanish players and their children.
The question of who best to coach Alcaraz was not the only concern early on in his career. The family needed financial help to send the boy to Croatia for the Pula tournament – considered the under-10s World Championship.
Carlos Alcaraz (pictured) is through to his first Wimbledon final where he will play Novak Djokovic
Alcaraz has emulated his hero Rafael Nadal (right) by reaching his first Wimbledon final at the age of 20
Alfonso Lopez, the boss of local cake and desert firm ‘Postres Reina’ sponsored him. Dad Carlos told El Mundo: ‘We put a logo on his shoulder, but what visibility does a child of 12 or 13 really have? [Lopez] did it because he wanted to help and he has become part of our family since.’
With the all important financial support behind him he was progressing under coaches Carlos Santos and Kiko Navarro but at the age of15 he had found the mentor who would help him reach the top.
Juan Carlos Ferrero took him on at his Equelite centre of excellence in Alicante drummed two things into the prodigy: progress should be slow and steady rather than fleeting; and he should avoid all comparisons with Nadal because of the inevitable pressure it would bring.
The call for patience was related to a physical blooming that father and coach new would come eventually. He was 17 when he began to fill-out and the rapid rise through the rankings followed.
Extraordinary levels of concentration had already been honed in the family home by endless games of chess with grandfather Carlos. ‘You get distracted for a moment and you can lose and in that way it is very similar to tennis,’ Carlos says.
Alcaraz (right) has been kept grounded by his family despite his meteoric rise in tennis
Trainer Juan Carlos Ferrero took Alcaraz on at his Equelite centre of excellence in Alicante
Mother Virginia has been another steadying influence, rarely talking tennis with her son, keeping him grounded and making sure he had done his homework when a safety net via academic achievement was still relevant.
By the time he had turned 18 though, it was clear he was not going to need a plan B and he was not so much being compared to Nadal as facing him on the other side of the court – the sorcerer winding down his career and the apprentice just beginning his.
Ahead of meeting Alcaraz in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters in 2022 Nadal said: ‘I wouldn’t call him a rival; my rivals have been Federer, Murray and Djovokic.’
And so to Sunday when the last name on that list, aged 36, will face the young pretender. The road to truly emulate Nadal is going to be a long one but facing Djokovic, already as world number one with a US Open in his locker, Spain’s Alcaraz has made some start.