The comparisons are odious, yes, but Carlos Alcaraz is making it increasingly difficult to avoid establishing similarities between him and the man many believe he is destined to succeed, Rafa Nadal. This Sunday, in Umag (Croatia), the Murcian won his first ATP title at 18 years and 2 months, the same age (with a difference of eight days) at which the genius from Manacor launched his account back in 2004 in Sopot. He is the fifth youngest to lift a wound since the creation of the ATP circuit in 1990. The victim was Richard Gasquet, a 35-year-old Frenchman and 59 of the ranking who gave up in an hour and 17 minutes for a double 6-2 and may have lost the last opportunity to expand his record.
It was the third final in the history of the tour with the greatest age difference between the contenders and the generation gap was noticeable from the beginning. Someone was hungrier and had more legs and that was Alcaraz, who had some discomfort in his right arm and the consequent bandage that has not detracted from his power these days. The first set was practically traced to Saturday’s in the semifinal against Ramos: early break, not a concession to serve and a new break to finish sentencing him 6-2 in 37 minutes.
Gasquet only worked, and from time to time, the serve and volley, a resource very exploited by veterans like him and great servers; Alcaraz, on the other hand, taught the entire repertoire, with good service percentages (64% of first and 71% of points won with them in the initial round) and his right spitting fire. It was not so much that Béziers, a player with proven solvency on the ground, did not measure up as that his rival did not let him enter the game. When it seemed that he was awakening, at the dawn of the second set, he received another blow to the rest of Carlos: 3-1. There the final is over. Then he suffered a new break and his body language ended up turning towards resignation. Dumbfounded, he handed over the set and the trophy with a new 6-2.
Thus, Alcaraz became heir to Umag’s record of great names in national tennis: Moyá, who won there five times, and Berasategui, Mantilla, Ferrero, Robredo and Verdasco, one each. But the wake that it really follows is another. He was already the youngest to enter the top 75 in the ranking since Nadal in 2003; the youngest to reach the third round of a Grand Slam (this year at Roland Garros) since Rafa in Australia in 2004; the Spanish semi-finalist in a youngest ATP tournament since the Balearic in Auckland in 2004; the youngest Spaniard to win an ATP match since Nadal in Mallorca in 2002. The odious, but so far accurate, comparisons.
If his battered arm does not prevent it, the El Palmar diamond will return to the charge this week in Kitzbuhel (Austria). He will already do so as the 54th racket in the world (he arrived in Umag as the 73rd) and the tenth seed in the box. “The future is his,” Gasquet declared at the end of the clash. And he is breaking the shell with his fists.