Alcaraz leaves NextGen behind with Milan magic

 - Alex Sharp

The Spanish prodigy Carlos Alcaraz capped a sensational season in style by lifting the NextGen ATP Finals silverware.

Carlos Alcaraz lifting the 2021 NextGen ATP Finals trophy© Georgio Maiozzi/Uthopia/FFT

Carlos Alcaraz arrived in Paris for Roland-Garros 2021 as ‘one to watch,’ already turning heads on Tour.

The Spaniard obliterated his trio of qualifying opponents to then soar into the third round as the youngest man to reach the last 32 at Roland-Garros since a certain Rafael Nadal in 2004.

Alcaraz finding his own way

Back in June we managed to catch up with his coach and former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. The 2003 Roland-Garros champion was eager to brush away any comparisons between his charge and legendary Spanish on-court figures.

“We have to let him grow up, to stay calm, to work hard,” insisted Ferrero in Paris.

“He can’t be involved in the next Rafa (Nadal), next (David) Ferrer, next Ferrero conversation. He has excellent examples of Spanish players to follow, but it’s very important to find his own way.”

Well, the teenager has certainly carved out his own path in 2021, which has culminated in a captivating week at the NextGen ATP Finals in Milan.

There was a point that illuminates his rapid progress, during his victory over American Brandon Nakashima, Alcaraz’s speed, striking and reactions are almost beyond belief. Check it out below before you read on, trust us.

Bringing the magic in Milan

It’s this front foot, aggressive brand of tennis Ferrero has been eager to install in his protegee. The career-high world No.32 is surging to the net more, flipping defence into attack with cunning squash shots, his ability to strike bravely in the tight moments is becoming increasingly pivotal.

So much so that a ruthless Alcaraz lost just one set all week, dismissing Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Nakashima and Holger Rune in the round-robin stage, before taking down Argentina’s Sebastien Baez in the last four.

On Saturday night the 18-year-old dominated proceedings 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 to outgun Sebastian Korda to take home the title at the 21-and-under event.

“I feeling amazing. To be able to win this tournament means a lot to me. I am so excited right now and emotional,” revealed the Murcia native.

“It feels good to end the year in the best way possible. Playing great matches against great players. It is the best way to finish the year.”

Carlos Alcaraz ot of joy in Milan© Georgio Maiozzi/Uthopia/FFT

Making leaps beyond the NextGen

There isn’t an element of surprise on the tennis circuit that this explosive talent is rocketing towards the top, but it’s the speed of the rise.

At the start of the 2021 campaign Alcaraz was ranked world No.141. Since then he has captured his first ATP title in Umag back in July and he advanced to a maiden major quarter-final at the US Open, defeating world No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas along the way.

Post New York Alcaraz has kept collecting standout victories, prevailing past Andy Murray and world No.7 Matteo Berrettini in Vienna and then world No.10 Jannik Sinner at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Three Top 10 wins in a few months. That’s not potential, that’s the real deal.

“It has been a really good season for me. I am really happy about the moments I have lived. Beating Stefanos at the US Open, reaching the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam and winning my first ATP title,” stated the Spaniard, before recalling more significant moments.

“But I think these achievements would not have been possible without the experience I got in Madrid, playing against Rafa (Nadal). In Acapulco, playing against (Alexander) Zverev. There are a lot of tournaments, matches, that gave me a lot of experience to make me more mature so soon.”

The 2021 version of Alcaraz has been enthralling, rounded off by motoring through the field in Milan. Watch out 2022, Carlos has already left the NextGen behind.