The matches are terrible. In 2005, a Spaniard who was just 19 years old, ranked fifth in the world, claimed his first Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros.
In 2022, another Spaniard who celebrated his 19th birthday will move to the same place, in sixth place in the world and in search of a first big victory.
The two men in question, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, are at the opposite end of their careers, but at least one of them is likely to be present when the trophies are handed over in just a fortnight in Paris.
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Nadal, however, does not need any identification. His 21 Grand Slam titles include 13 at Roland-Garros, a venue where he boasts an unbelievable 105-3 record.
Alcaraz’s 2-1 record in Paris will look good enough when he finishes. He won the Madrid Masters earlier this month, a win in some style, with Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev winning consecutive matches.
Tennis legend Todd Woodbridge told the Wide World of Sports: “He made a huge statement. He is now a serious competitor to Roland-Garros.”
“Perhaps the most impressive was the way he defeated Zaverev in the final. It sent a real message to the rest of the tour. He could easily have been disappointed after defeating Nadal and Djokovic.”
“It simply came to our notice then. There was no reason for him to be afraid.
“He likes the big stage, he likes the occasion and those are all the reasons you usually expect to take time to develop a young player. He obviously finds all those aspects of his development so fast.”
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During last year’s US Open, where Alcaraz reached the Slam quarterfinals for the first time, Woodbridge noted that the word was the young Spaniard “the closest thing to Rafa since Nadal arrived.”
In this way he became the fifth youngest player to record four Grand Slam match wins, and the first since Nadal did so in 2005 before turning 19.
His rise in the rankings is just as impressive. The youngest player is currently ranked in the top 150, firmly at number six in the world, up from 97 at this time last year.
Woodbridge explained, “What I find interesting is that he was on a long enough tour to keep a playbook of how to beat him in the locker room, yet he still manages it very well.”
“It’s really impressive. Now though, he’s got the expectation that he will push himself to continue achieving. The first question is Roland-Garros, and how he manages it.
“He did the third round there last year, a good tough result and he will get a feel for the setting. It will then come down to the team around him and he has got a great team. Juan-Carlos Ferrero seems to have a calm nature which really helped him. Lays enough ground to do so. “
A question mark hangs over Nadal’s fitness, especially the long-term problem with his legs that prevented him from reaching Rome last week, where he lost to Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
“Rafa is a favorite for Roland-Garros as long as he’s physically fit,” Woodbridge said.
“He had a good week in Madrid. Yes, he lost to Alcaraz, but he did not lose easily. He will continue to improve in Paris, and the five-set experience makes him a favorite.
“Carlos lost to Stefanos Sitcipas at the US Open last year, but this is the next test for him. Can he beat the big names in the top five in a row?”
Alcaraz’s spectacular rise has put the likes of Zaverev and Sitsipas on notice. Unlike 26-year-old Daniel Medvedev, neither Zverev (25) nor Sitsipas (23) has won a Grand Slam.
After serving their apprentices waiting for the big three to retire, the next few years should have been their time.
Carlos Alcaraz vs Matteo Beretini: Australian Open 2022 | Tennis Highlights
Instead, they face the possibility of playing the second whistle of the next Wonderkid in the game.
“If you’re one of those guys, especially Sitsipus, it’s time,” Woodbridge said.
“She can’t let this kid go in front of her. By any measure, she’s already joined him.”
“Sitsipas needs to raise its level. The generation that is sitting there waiting is a wake-up call for them not to let a young player like Carlos come in and take that opportunity away from them.”
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