What Alcaraz Has Done Quicker Than The Big Three
Carlos Alcaraz dominated like a veteran in his 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win against Chilean Alejandro Tabilo on Monday in the first round of the Australian Open. Not only was the performance itself notable, but so was his age.
At 18 years, eight months and twelve days, Alcaraz is seeded at a major — 31st — for the first time. Not even the greatest Grand Slam champions, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were as quick to be seeded in the majors. The teen has achieved the feat at a younger age than any of them.
“Being seeded is always good,” said Alcaraz, who made his major main draw debut one year ago at Melbourne Park. “In the early rounds, you kind of avoid meeting the top players, that’s a small advantage that is always welcome. And I think I’ve earned the position.”
Age Of First Seeding At A Grand Slam
|Carlos Alcaraz||18 years, 8 months, 12 days||2022 Australian Open||31||TBC|
|Rafael Nadal||18 years, 11 months, 20 days||2005 Roland Garros||4||W|
|Novak Djokovic||19 years, 3 months, 6 days||2006 US Open||20||R32|
|Roger Federer||19 years, 10 months, 17 days||2001 Wimbledon||15||QF|
In fact, Alcaraz’s precociousness is unmatched in 32 years. The #NextGenATP Spaniard is the youngest player to be seeded at a major since Michael Chang (18 years, 6 months and 5 days) at the 1990 US Open, and Boris Becker (18 years, 3 days) at the 1985 Australian Open.
Youngest Players To Be Seeded At The Australian Open (Open Era)
|Bjorn Borg||17 years, 6 months, 18 days||1973|
|Boris Becker||18 years, 3 days||1985|
|John Alexander||18 years, 6 months, 15 days||1970|
|Yannick Noah||18 years, 7 months, 7 days||1978|
|Carlos Alcaraz||18 years, 8 months, 12 days||2022|
But an exclusive comparison with the members of the Big Three is perhaps more telling, despite the generational difference, since they are all still active players.
In addition, former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero’s understudy needed fewer tournaments in the category to find a place for himself among the seeds. His first time as a seed at a major comes on his fifth participation in a Grand Slam main draw, fewer attempts than any of the Big Three. Nadal took six, Djokovic eight and Federer nine.
These comparisons are by no means a guarantee of success for the young Spaniard. Nor do they mean that we are looking at a sure-fire Gland Slam champion or the next No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. In fact, there are other players who were seeded at a major at a younger age than the Big Three who did neither of those things.
What is true though is that all players in the Open Era who have been younger than Alcaraz when they played their first Grand Slam as a seed broke into the Top 15 at some point in their careers. That is the Spaniard’s goal for the end of 2022, as well as earning a place at the Nitto ATP Finals.
“I like being established on Tour, when players know you’re there and see you as a close rival,” said last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion. “Last year was a great year for me, when I consolidated myself as one of the best on Tour. I’m almost in the Top 30, and it’s very good when other players are getting to know you, and that they have a bit more respect for you.”
On the basis of that well-earned respect, which is still growing as he becomes one of the main contenders at Grand Slams, Alcaraz believes in his chances of exceeding his best finish at a major. At last year's US Open, he advanced to the quarter-finals.
“I like seeing the draw, I like dreaming, seeing who’s in the semi-finals. To me, that’s dreaming right now,” he added. Maybe the Spaniard should take things one step at a time, but then again, Alcaraz does things a little quicker than most.
Did you know?
The youngest player to be seeded in a Grand Slam in the Open Era was Björn Borg, who was the sixth seed at Wimbledon in 1973 at 17 years and 19 days.