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Carlos Alcaraz cracks the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings by winning the ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro.

Fast & Fabulous: Why Carlos Alcaraz Won't Slow Down After Top 20 Milestone

Spaniard has eyes set on bigger goals

Carlos Alcaraz was just a 16 year-old kid with a huge grin when he first set foot in the Jockey Club Brasileiro. All he was looking for back then was to enjoy a tournament where he would share a locker room with players he had only previously been able to see on TV. The organisers of the Rio Open presented by Claro had granted him a wild card to make his ATP Tour debut. Probably, he could never have imagined that two years later he would be back there lifting his first ATP 500 title.

On the 18th of February 2020, as the No. 406 in the ATP Ranking, he officially introduced himself to the Tour. He was still just a boy, but a young talent who looked sure to turn professional sooner rather than later. So far, he is living up to all those expectations. Last Sunday, on the same Brazilian clay, he lifted the second title of his career and the first in an ATP 500.

“It’s spectacular,” the Spaniard said of the new trophy on its way to his cabinet. “I won my first ATP match in Rio. Being able to win the tournament two years later means so much to me. I remember when I came for the first time, I thought I was here to keep having fun, to learn from the best, and two years later I came here with high expectations, thinking I could win, that I was one of the favourites to win, and having done that in Rio is really amazing.”

His transformation has been meteoric. In a matter of months, he went from being a promising wild card to a well-established Tour player. Now he has reached his highest-ever ATP Ranking, inside the world’s Top 20.

And if anyone thinks he is about to rest on his laurels, they can think again. The Spaniard explained that his “goal now is not to leave it [the Top 20], and gradually move up. I have several tournaments that I wasn’t able to play last year, which is an opportunity to keep growing and I think this tournament gives me a lot of motivation and desire to keep climbing as I have been.”

When asked about his goals, Alcaraz was quick to state his ambition to reach the pinnacle of the sport. “Being the No. 1 in the world, a Grand Slam champion, Olympic medals... I dream big,” he answered with a smile of equal parts confidence and innocence.

The Murcia native knows he is not the only one with his sights set high. Those around him expect much of him too. “People have high expectations of me. I’m grateful that people think I can be the best in the world, but my team and I know how difficult it is. I have Juan Carlos [Ferrero], who can tell me how difficult it is to reach No. 1 in the world and what a sacrifice it is. I think I’m on the right path, if I stay on it and keep doing things right, I’ll have chances, although that doesn’t guarantee anything.”

What, exactly, has he improved in order to compete at this level? “Everyone treats the important points differently from the rest and the player who best deals with their nerves in those moments will do best. It’s something I’m working on, when the important points come, thinking it’s just another point and making it less important than it is. And, above all, trying to hide those nerves from your opponent.”

During the week, Alcaraz demonstrated his potential —which he is getting increasingly closer to fulfilling— leaving in his wake great clay players such as Jaume Munar and Federico Delbonis; two opponents who have been in the Top 10 such as Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini (on the same day); and a player who already knew what it was to win in Rio, Diego Schwartzman, in the final.

Every victory was accompanied with a special celebration: forming a pair of glasses with his hands in dedication to ‘Los Lupas’, his group of friends in Murcia. Thus ends this chapter of the story of a boy who has shed his wild card skin to become a fully fledged favourite.

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