In 2003, Rafael Nadal kicked off the season ranked 200th, making impressive progress and finishing in the top-50 at 17. Besides notable victories on the ATP level, Nadal claimed 29 wins on the Challenger Tour from 36 matches, winning two titles from six finals.
Seventeen years later, another 17-year-old Spaniard is making a name for himself on the Challenger level, creating an astonishing acceleration through the rankings and moving closer to the place in the top-100. Carlos Alcaraz was born on May 5, 2003, just a day after the 16-year-old Rafael Nadal lost the Aix En Provence final to Mariano Puerta.
The El Palmar native has been the leader of the pack for generation 2003, scoring his first ATP victory in Rio de Janeiro in February and standing as the player to beat on the Challenger level since the season restart. Working with a former world no.
1 Juan Carlos Ferrero at his Academy, Carlos is ranked 136th on the newest ATP ranking list, winning 20 out of 23 Challenger matches since August and winning three titles, two in the previous two weeks in Barcelona and Alicante.
Thus, the super talented teenager became the second-youngest player with three Challenger titles at 17 years and five months, beaten only by Richard Gasquet who had three crowns already before the 17th birthday. Carlos has produced some incredible numbers for a player with no experience, winning 14 out of 15 tie breaks at Challenger level and 11 out of 13 deciding sets since the season restart!
In Alicante, Alcaraz came from a set down in the quarters and semis, facing the top-100 compatriot Pedro Martinez in the battle for the title. Carlos prevailed 7-6, 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes, trailing 5-3 in the opening set and fending off two set points in the tie break.
Carlos Alcaraz became the second-youngest player with three Challenger crowns.
From 2-2 in set number two, a teenager grabbed four of the final five games to seal the deal in style and enter history books. After seven comfortable holds at the beginning of the encounter, Martinez converted the fourth break chance to open a 5-3 gap.
Carlos broke back at 15 to erase the deficit, producing a fine hold to level the score at 5-5. They traded breaks in games 11 and 12 to bring the tie break where Pedro opened a 6-4 gap, wasting both opportunities to close the set and giving it to Carlos when the youngster placed a backhand down the line winner.
They traded breaks at the beginning of the second set and Carlos served well in the remaining four games, mounting the pressure on the other side of the net. Alcaraz grabbed a break in game six with a deep return, sealing the deal with a hold at love at 5-3 to celebrate the third Challenger title in the last eight weeks!