Alcaraz out to emulate Rafa under Ferrero's wing

Spanish teen is one of the hottest prospects on tour and is just one win away from securing his RG debut.

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland Garros qualifying, round one© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

When he was just 12 years old, Carlos Alcaraz visited Roland-Garros as a fan, spellbound by what he witnessed.

The Spaniard remembers thinking, “One day I’ll be here”.

Two matches down, one to go. It’s nearly mission accomplished.

Alcaraz is one of the hottest topics on tour. Coached by a Grand Slam champion in Juan Carlos Ferrero, and following in the footsteps of a certain Rafael Nadal, the 18-year-old is building quite the reputation.

Already in 2021, the teenager has secured a first ATP semi-final in Marbella, scooped a maiden Masters 1000 match-win in Madrid and lifted a Challenger title last week in Oeiras, Portugal, to go with the three trophies he picked up at that level last season.


Such moves cause a swirl, but Alcaraz has tunnel vision on the essential matters, hiding from the hype and expectations.

“I try not to think about that. I have to just play for myself and my team, my family,” Alcaraz told after dispatching Andrea Pellegrino 6-1, 6-2 on Wednesday.

“My team knows my level, what I’m capable of, how far I can reach. I try not to get distracted by reading too much things like the social media, I have to just play for me.”

This week, Alcaraz is making his top-100 debut -- the youngest player to do so since Borna Coric (17) back in 2014.

“Yeah it’s amazing, one of the highlights of my career so far for sure. It means I’m working really hard, I’m doing the correct things,” added the world No.94 from Murcia.

“I’m trying every day to be better, so it’s a good gift to be in the top 100. It’s really special to be among the best players in the world.”

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland Garros 2021, qualifying second round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Earlier this month, Alcaraz celebrated his 18th birthday by facing Nadal at the Madrid Open -- a much talked-about clash that culminated with a 6-1, 6-2 scoreline for the ‘King of Clay.’

“I learned a lot from Rafa. When I see him play I always try to pick up something. Noting what I have to improve," he said.

“Playing against him was an amazing experience, the perfect opportunity to learn from the best, the best way to learn how to play points at the top, how to manage the nerves in the tough moments. Everything.”

It’s another Spanish hero in his corner: 2003 Roland-Garros champion Ferrero is coach to this formidable talent.

“Yes of course I’ve seen videos of him here at Roland-Garros and other tournaments,” said Alcaraz, keen to extract useful insights from his coach’s past in Paris. 

“Not the full matches, but the highlights. I’ve talked with him a lot about the beginning of his career, what I’m doing, playing early at Roland-Garros. He did so well here, especially in the first years, I can take a lot from that.”


A plethora of players have complimented the 18-year-old’s composed on-court demeanour and humble persona. It’s all part of the package.

“The good mentality is the best weapon, the most important thing you can learn. On court it’s important to not show your opponent that you’re a bit down or not in a good moment. It’s important to stay calm, to stay focused all of the time," he explains.

Alcaraz will battle for his main draw berth against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo or Indian No.27 seed Sumit Nagal.

Marc Polmans, Roland Garros 2021 qualifying second round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

'Always digging'

Australian Marc Polmans’ profile on Instagram reads, “Whack your helmet on, get the shovel out and never stop digging. #AlwaysDigging”.

It’s relevant to the gauntlet of qualifying, which the world No.149 is one match away from completing, following victories over compatriot Alex Bolt and French youngster Arthur Fils. 

“It’s just a funny motto I’ve had going since I was a junior. It’s perfectly relatable to the Challengers and qualies, shooting for the top 100. We use the term 'dig', to find a way,” stated the 24-year-old. “You’ve got to fight every week.”

It’s been a turbulent and pretty fruitless period on the red dirt for Polmans, but the Australian relishes a return to Paris, where last October he upset home charge Ugo Humbert before pushing world No.23 Cristian Garin to four sets in the main draw second round.

“The last couple of months have definitely been a tough road for me but mentally it’s a new week for me, so we’ll see how it goes,” added the Melbournian, who will hope to conquer 14th seed Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the final round.

“Last year was one of the best matches I’ve played on clay, that gave me a lot of confidence. I’ve been trying to replicate that, believing in myself like last year. My game is playing as I want it right now.”

Former world No.12 Viktor Troicki’s final Roland-Garros was halted 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Australian Aleksandar Vukic, who will vie for a main draw ticket against American Bjorn Fratangelo.

Fifth seed Taro Daniel advanced to book an encounter with home hope Quentin Halys, while the likes of Denis Istomin, Maximilian Marterer and Mackenzie McDonald all remain in contention.