Parallels will follow Carlos Alcaraz for the rest of his life.
It comes with the territory when a Spanish teenager, following in Rafael Nadal’s footsteps, lands his maiden victory in a Grand Slam main draw.
For the 17-year-old from Murcia it came via a 6-1 6-4 6-4 triumph over Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Being a showdown between a pair of qualifiers, the match was consigned to Court 17, away from the sunken surrounds and crowd noise of a show court, bordering the tram tracks, which separate Melbourne Park and the MCG.
If the teenager continues on his current trajectory it is not a court he will be assigned for much longer.
Following Jannik Sinner’s loss on Monday, Alcaraz is now the sole teenager standing in the men’s draw, and his favourable statistics are only mounting.
Last month in Doha he became the youngest man to qualify for the Australian Open since Novak Djokovic in 2005.
He is the youngest man to win a Grand Slam match since Thanasi Kokkinakis beat Igor Sijsling at the 2014 Australian Open and the first born in 2003 to win a match at a major.
“I’m very happy to [get] this win today in my first Grand Slam,” he beamed. “I try to enjoy, to play my game. I enjoyed it. I got the experience. I’m excited to play my second round.”
His Dutch opponent, while ranked 10 places lower at No.151, had form on the board, having won three matches at Melbourne Park last week before letting a match point slip against Karen Khachanov in the Great Ocean Road semifinals.
While Alcaraz admitted to an expected dose of pre-match butterflies, it did not show the moment the first ball was struck.
He opened the match winning 20 of the first 25 points as he leaped to 5-0.
He was broken just once in the second set and after landing the crucial break for 5-4 in the third, he brought up match point with a cool-as-you-like drop-shot winner.
His passage was secure when he nailed a running forehand down the line, much to world No.16 Pablo Carreno Busta’s approval courtside.
Swedish 22-year-old Mikael Ymer is next.
“Pablo Carreno Busta is like a brother here,” he said. “I have someone who can help me here … it means a lot to me that Pablo can see my match, support me here with my team.”
Hours later, compatriot Nadal steamrolled his way past Laslo Djere in his first outing on Rod Laver Arena for AO2021.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion hit with the teenager in a closed training session on John Cain Arena last week and was notably impressed.
“He’s very good. He’s very young. He has everything to improve in the future with his age,” Nadal said after both reached the second round.
“He already is where he is, and he has a lot of great things on his game. I really believe that he will have a great future because he’s a good guy, humble, a hard worker. He has a lot of positive things.”
Grinning constantly, Alcaraz is not as shy or as seriously spoken as Nadal, much slighter in physique and without the long hair of his idol at the same age.
Their game styles are markedly different and Alcaraz certainly won’t buy into comparing their results.
“I try to focus on me, not on the social media, to play my game, play in front of my team, [for] my team, me, my family,” he said. “I don’t hear the comparison with Rafa.”
The teenager will soak up whatever insights the veteran champ is willing to impart.
Already one aspect stands out from their first training session.
“I think the intensity he trains with, no?” Alcaraz said. “He trains with a lot of intensity all the time. He hits the ball very hard. He tries to hit harder every ball.
“I think he’s focused from the first ball to the last.”
Source: Dan Imhoff