Carlos Conquers Oeiras: Alcaraz Claims Historic Fourth Challenger Crown
Spanish teen lifts first trophy of 2021
For Carlos Alcaraz, a memorable month of May has become unforgettable. The 18-year-old Spaniard dominated at the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Oeiras, Portugal, claiming the biggest title of his young career.
Alcaraz lifted the Oeiras Open 125 trophy on Sunday, defeating Facundo Bagnis 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 38 minutes. Just two weeks after battling idol Rafael Nadal at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid, he would return to the Challenger level full of confidence.
Alcaraz joined elite company with his victory in Oeiras, becoming one of just seven players to win four Challenger titles at the age of 18 & under. That list includes Richard Gasquet (7), Tomas Berdych (5), Felix Auger-Aliassime (4), Hyeon Chung (4), Mario Ancic (4) and Guillermo Coria (4).
"I'm incredibly happy to win here," said Alcaraz, who is projected to break into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday. "To be able to get this title is something special. It's the biggest moment of my career. I played at a high level all week, at a great tournament and against very good players. I think it's a great preparation for Roland Garros [qualifying]. I'm just really happy."
Since he first crashed onto the scene one year ago, Alcaraz has made his mark as a mental giant. With poise and composure far beyond his years, the 18-year-old would exhibit exceptional fortitude en route to the title in Oeiras.
On Wednesday, the Murcia native was forced to battle back from a set and a break down to defeat fellow #NextGenATP star Brandon Nakashima. Then, in Thursday's quarter-finals, he outlasted home hope Gastao Elias after trailing 1-4 in the opening set. On Friday, Alcaraz withstood a stern test from former World No. 64 Taro Daniel, bouncing back after conceding two straight breaks when serving for the match in the second set. And on Saturday, he sprinted to the finish line with an efficient straight-set win over Bagnis.
"I felt very comfortable on the court. Facundo is a great player. I had the break in the second set and felt a little nervous with my serve. He broke back but I got it done in the end. It was the small details, these opportunities, that I took advantage of."
Alcaraz is not only projected to crack the Top 100 on Monday, but will also move up two spots to sixth place in the ATP Race To Milan. The surging teen is seeking to make his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in November.
The Spaniard picked up where he left off on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2020, when he set the circuit ablaze behind a trio of titles and a tour-leading 83.3 win percentage. The Spaniard, who won 20 of 24 Challenger matches last year, has already proceeded to launch a seamless transition to the ATP Tour in 2021. A first Tour-level semi-final on home soil in Marbella came just one month ago and was soon followed by a successful ATP Masters 1000 debut in Madrid (d. Mannarino).
Photo: Sara Falcao | @sarahawkkk on Instagram
Now, as Alcaraz sets his sights on full-time ATP Tour status going forward, one of the greatest performers in ATP Challenger history had one last statement to make on the circuit.
"I will forever remember this week, this tournament, this club, this city, this moment," said Alcaraz. "Winning a title is always special and to reach the Top 100 here in Portugal is very nice. I will next go to Roland Garros and try to qualify for my first Grand Slam. I need to keep improving with every match and now I want to gain more experience playing five sets. This will be important starting in Roland Garros."