Carlos Alcaraz stares at his colleagues in Indian Wells | ATP Tour

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The future is rosy for Carlos Alcaraz, one of the biggest stars of the ATP Tour at just 19 years old. The Spaniard has enjoyed a rapid rise in a sport where careers are lengthening and where experience often decides youth in the professional circuit. However, it seems that nothing can dampen the momentum of the Murcian native who is already on course for another historic season.

The emergence of Alcaraz’ special talent goes against the current trend. Never before have there been more players over the age of 30 in the top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP rankings than today. Never before have so many players resisted retirement. However, the Spaniard sets records for precocity almost every time he steps onto the pitch.

In this battle against time, the BNP Paribas Open 2023 represents an opportunity for this young contender to stare at the players with whom he will share his future in the game. Young players destined to occupy the upper echelons of tennis, the ones he may have to contend with for the biggest titles in the years to come. These peers, whose arrival in the game coincides with that of Alcaraz, are proving to be his strongest opponents on the pitch.

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In addition to the Spaniard, there are currently three players under the age of 23 in the top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP ranking. Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, Dane Holger Rune and Italian Jannik Sinner. None of them have a negative record against the Spanish prodigy unlike most other players. In Indian Wells, Carlos prepares for the second consecutive clash against two of them.

Tasked with stopping the Spaniard in the quarter-finals, Auger-Aliassime was the perfect litmus test of Alcaraz’s toughness. The 22-year-old world No. 10 had won all his duels with the young star ahead of Friday’s game like no other player on the tour. A 3-0 ATP Head2Head in favor of the North American gave Alcaraz something unique in his career: an undefeated nemesis on the other side of the net.

The Murcian native had never broken the Canadian’s serve in their three encounters. His 6-4, 6-4 win at Indian Wells is therefore a true statement of intent against one of his greatest rivals.

“I knew I had to stay strong,” Alcaraz admitted after beating Auger-Aliassime in California. “The games so far have been close. I had chances in the Davis Cup, but I remember hanging my head a bit in Basel. My goal was not to give up, maybe I’ll have more chances and if they come I have to make the most of them. I did it, I had one of my best matches of the year.”

The dismantling of this wall has brought Alcaraz another generation test. In the semifinals he meets 21-year-old Jannik Sinner. The Italian is one of the few players who has a tied ATP Head2Head series after several matches (2:2) with Alcaraz. To say their recent encounter was intense is an understatement.

Alcaraz and Sinner’s epic five-set quarter-final of the 2022 US Open may have pleased the Spaniard, but it provided further proof of how strong his generation’s peers are. The Murcian player converted a match point after five hours and 15 minutes of play at 2:50 a.m., the last finish in New York Grand Slam history.

“At the end of the game I had nothing left,” Alcaraz said after surviving one of the most spectacular and intense games of 2022. “It was really tough for me. The level of tennis we played was so high from start to finish. I tried very hard to stay focused and gave my all at every point. I had to be able to trust myself at all times.”

“Carlos is the type of player who makes you want to up your game,” Sinner said at the time. “I’ve had tough losses in my career and that’s at the top of the list. It will hurt me for some time, I have to try to find the positive lessons. I know it’s gonna be tough I have to improve and trust that I will win next time.”

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The next chapter in their rivalry has come quickly. In Indian Wells, they’re fighting for a place in an ATP Masters 1000 final and a chance to fight for one of the biggest trophies of the year. It’s a clear sign of the tennis caliber the pair produce and a prospect Alcaraz finds alluring.

“I feel lucky to play against him. We had great fights,” said the world No. 2 in California. “I always enjoy our games. It’s going to be a great game for the fans and for me too. I tried to give 100%, Jannik is playing great and I’m going to enjoy this match.”

In the Coachella Valley, a place graced by so many of football’s legends, Alcaraz seeks to assert his authority against one of his great future rivals.


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