In the last few months in professional tennis we have seen the exits of not only two of the sport’s greatest players ever, in Serena Williams and Roger Federer, but also two of the sport’s most recognizable stars.
Both Williams and Federer have been pillars of the tennis world and helped the sport grow immeasurably in their two-plus decades competing on tour. And as each has announced they are retiring, there naturally is concern that their absence creates a void.
But tennis fans should realize the game is in good hands with young stars such as Carlos Alcaraz who have made their breakthroughs and demonstrated that perhaps they are capable of carrying that torch. Federer himself even acknowledged this dynamic and explained why he wasn’t worried.
“People thought tennis was not so cool and great anymore once Sampras and Agassi retired. Here I was like, ‘I’m sorry, it’s kind of me also, with [Andy] Roddick and [Juan Carlos] Ferrero and [Lleyton] Hewitt especially. So for me to now look at the future, I know it’s incredibly bright and we don’t have to worry about it on either side, men or women. I think it’s going to be great and I will be following it closely of course.”
Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferraro, has even made the comparison to Federer:
“It is difficult to compare [anyone] to Roger Federer, of course, but if I had to say one name [in comparison to Carlos], I’m looking for somebody that is very aggressive and is able to do a lot of things on the court, and Roger is the best in these situations,” he said. “He can play on any surface and can play any type of style.”
Alcaraz has been a budding star for the better part of the last year, and comments from some of the game’s greats have indicated what they think of Alcaraz’s future. He broke into the mainstream at the end of the 2021 when he reached the final eight at the U.S. Open, at the young age of 18-years-old.
His undeniable talent pops off the screen when you watch him on television, and is even more impressive when you see him in person, and with his excellent results at the end of last year, there were high expectations coming into 2022. The Spaniard has not only met those expectations, but he may have surpassed them so far.
To that point, Alcaraz got a big win here in the United States, as he won the first ATP Masters 1000 title of his career by hoisting the trophy at the Miami Open, becoming the youngest male champion at the event in nearly four decades.
“I have no words to describe how I feel right now,” Alcaraz said as he addressed the crowd in his on-court interview. “I have an unbelievable team with me...I’m so happy with the win.”
His win in Miami, at such a young age, would be enough to make anyone else’s season, but Alcaraz was not done. And a few months later, Alcaraz would secure the biggest victory of his career.
Right here in New York, the Spanish teenager would win the U.S. Open, defeating Norway’s Casper Ruud in the championship match.
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates a point during his 2022 U.S. Open title run. (Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA)
“It’s crazy to me,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve never thought that I was going to achieve something like that at 19- years-old. So everything is coming so fast. For me it’s unbelievable. It’s something I dreamed since I was a kid, since I started playing tennis. Of course, to lift this trophy today is amazing for me.”
The match was not only for the U.S. Open title but also the world No. 1 ranking, and Alcaraz now becomes the youngest No. 1 in the history of the ATP rankings, as well as the youngest major champion on the men’s side since his compatriot Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2005. He’s the youngest male U.S. Open champion since American Pete Sampras won in 1990.
“This is something I tried to achieve, all the hard work I did with my team,” said Alcaraz. “I’m just 19-years-old. All the tough decisions were with my parents and my team. This is something really special for me.”
Alcaraz fed off the energy of the New York crowd throughout his fortnight in the Big Apple, which included two matches deep into the New York night, including a post-3:00 a.m. finish against Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals.
“It means a lot to me to have a lot of people supporting me here in New York. What I lived last year was incredible. But this year was unscriptable,” he said. “As I said, there were a lot of tough moments for me, tough matches. They were there all the time believing in me, supporting me. I finish the match against Jannik at almost 3 a.m. and they were there supporting me until the last ball. I could say this trophy is for them, as well. It's thanks to them. If I hadn't had them supporting me all the time, I couldn't have this trophy today.”
Besides his talent, Alcaraz brings the type of energy and enthusiasm that makes him a fan favorite, and someone that a crowd like the ones in New York embrace. In order to be able to be the one carrying the torch into a new era of tennis, it isn’t enough to simply be good at tennis and win titles. Star power matters, especially when you are one of the faces of a sport.
Ferraro, who has competed against some of the game’s greats and coached others, knows what it takes to be great and carry the sport on your shoulders, sees those qualities in Alcaraz, and knows that he is not satisfied.
“You can see it on the court, people enjoy him,” he said. “I think he is born to play this kind of tournament, born to play these kinds of matches. Since the moment that I started [working] with him, I saw some things that were different than the other guys at his age. I am still seeing that on court. In important moments, he is always trying to go. This was one of the more difficult things in tennis, even in his first Grand Slam final. He’s a great competitor, and he is trying all the time.”
Tennis is in good hands with players such as Alcaraz leading the charge into 2023 and beyond, despite the loss of some of the sport’s greats. Still just 19-years-old, there remains an immense amount of potential for a player who has already accomplished so much, and the Spaniard will be at the forefront of the new era of tennis.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com