Teens Claim Back-To-Back Challenger Milestones
It was nearly four years ago that a precocious 14-year-old with heaps of potential etched his name in the record books. A first ATP Challenger Tour match win was secured by a player born in the year 2000, as Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrated a breakthrough on home soil in Granby.
Flash forward to 2019 and not only has the Canadian transitioned from Challenger prodigy to ATP Tour star, he is enjoying a meteoric rise up the ATP Rankings to the Top 50. But Auger-Aliassime is not alone. The 18-year-old is carrying the mantle for players born in the 2000s, with many others earning breakthroughs of their own this year.
This week, the Challenger circuit welcomed two fresh faces to the winners' circle, as 17-year-old Lorenzo Musetti and 15-year-old Carlos Alcaraz Garfia celebrated their first match wins in thrilling fashion.
On Monday, Musetti became the first player born in the year 2002 to win a Challenger match, advancing at the Mouratoglou Open in Sophia Antipolis, France. He stormed back from a set down to defeat Karim-Mohamed Maamoun 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
A native of Carrara, Italy, Musetti would eventually fall to fellow teen and World No. 118 Alexei Popyrin on Tuesday. But the 2019 Australian Open junior champion has certainly made his mark to open his professional career. With the victory, he earns his first ATP Rankings points.
"It’s something that you cannot describe," Musetti said of his first taste of victory, "There are a lot of emotions on and off the court. This is completely different from juniors and it's the real tour here. You meet players older than you with a lot of matches behind their shoulders.
"I feel like I am playing at home and I really enjoy playing with the crowd that supports you from the beginning."
Musetti, who trains at the Mouratoglou Academy, finished runner-up in the US Open boys' final last year, before capping his junior career with the title at Melbourne Park. He is competing in just his second Challenger main draw, following a first-round exit in Bergamo in February to open his professional career.
The 2000s Club
||First Player To Win A Match||Tournament|
|2003||Carlos Alcaraz Garfia
||Sophia Antipolis 2019
Meanwhile, in nearby Alicante, Spain, a 15-year-old named Carlos Alcaraz Garfia claimed a slice of history of his own. One day after Musetti became the first player born in the year 2002 to win a match, Alcaraz Garfia became the first born in the year 2003 to emerge victorious.
Held at former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero's academy in the town of Villena, the tournament is celebrating its second edition this week. Alcaraz Garfia, who trains at the academy, defeated fellow teen Jannik Sinner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in Tuesday's opener. Trailing 0-3 in the deciding set, he would mount an impressive comeback, reeling off the final six games to earn his first ATP Rankings points.
"I entered the court knowing that I could win by playing my game," said the Spaniard. "I was able to compete against a player who is young and has been doing very well, so my feelings are very good. "I came here with good results last week from a junior tournament. I'm playing like it's my house and that's always a plus that really helps. I played very well with a lot of courage and it gives me confidence for the next match.
Youngest To Win A Match In 20 Years
||14 years, 11 months
||15 years, 3 months
||15 years, 9 months
|Carlos Alcaraz Garfia||Alicante 2019
||15 years, 10 months
"I know I can win against great players now. Tomorrow I have another match and I hope to continue playing like I did today. I like to play at home, both in Murcia and here. Playing in front of your people, who cheer for you and who try to lift you when you go down, is great. That gives me a lot of confidence, knowing that I have the people behind me."
With his victory, Alcaraz Garfia becomes the fourth-youngest player to win a Challenger match in the past 20 years. Only Felix Auger-Aliassime, Rafael Nadal and Nikolai Soloviev were younger. His Challenger debut continues on Tuesday with a second-round clash against eighth seed Lukas Rosol.