Alcaraz and Swiatek sparkle with Miami magic

Iga Swiatek ascended to world No.1 in style and Carlos Alcaraz continued to fulfil his potential, both in supreme form ahead of the Road to Roland-Garros.

Carlos Alcaraz / Miami 2022©Ray Giubilo / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Over recent years there have been incessant calls about the men’s side post the ‘Big Three’ triumvirate. When will the Next Gen stand up to be counted?

Then after Ash Barty’s sudden retirement, there were some murmurs about who could take charge on the WTA side.

Well the Miami Open provided some answers for sure, teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz won his first Masters 1000 title going 7-5, 6-4 against sixth seed Casper Ruud.

Iga Swiatek is now officially the WTA world No.1 and is more than playing like it. 17 consecutive wins, the Sunshine Double in the bag courtesy of another pristine display posting 6-4, 6-0 versus Naomi Osaka.

These two will be picking up plenty of “youngest to…” accolades throughout their careers.

Royalty hails Spanish jewel

Falling to the court at the Hard Rock Stadium, Carlos Alcaraz was on cloud nine.

“When I win the last point, all the time that I dream of came to my mind. I dreamed to get Masters 1000,” said the elated 18-year-old, rising to world No.11.

“All the dreams, all the hard work, all the training, all the troubles, everything came to my mind in that moment.”

All six of Alcaraz’s opponents in Miami were ranked inside the Top 55; he edged tie-breaks, dominated top seeds, the shot-making was simply sublime.

He became the third youngest Masters 1000 champion of all time – only Michael Chang (Toronto 1990) and Rafael Nadal (Monte Carlo 2005) were younger - spanning the 283 events from 1990.

For a few seasons the excitement regarding the Spanish protégé has been simmering, now it’s bursting and people are taken notice far and wide. Back in his homeland, Spanish royalty dialled in too.

“I was more nervous to that call than the match,” joked Alcaraz.

“It's pretty amazing that the Spanish king (Felipe VI) congratulate you on the hard work that you put every day and your win. Yeah, it's something that you never thought you were gonna receive. It's amazing.”

If you haven’t seen much of Alcaraz play, where have you been? It’s an experience. Well, let his final opponent Casper Ruud describe it for you.

“He can counterpunch and be so aggressive from both sides. You never get like a resting point in the rallies, and that's very challenging and impressive,” explained Ruud, up to a career-high No.7.

“He plays very aggressive. But at the same time, he doesn't mind moving and grinding out balls or points if he needs to. I think he's one of the players I played who moves better than pretty much anyone.

“I have seen Rafa talk about him, saying that he has all the ingredients to make a good salad, and I think that describes it very well.”

Ruud was 4-1 up in the opener on Alcaraz before the teenager unleashed his full repertoire with stacks of maturity and conviction. Now Roland-Garros is on the horizon...

“All I can say is I got two titles on clay and one on hard court,” stated the Spaniard, who reached the third round in Paris last summer from qualifying.

“Yeah, I feel very comfortable in both surface, so I don't mind playing on clay or on hard court.”

Iga turns into 1ga

Iga Swiatek is simply standing alone right now, atop of the rankings and breaking a multitude of records.

The 20-year-old’s career-best 17 successive victories have swept the opening three WTA 1000 events, which culminated in her Miami masterclass.

Just look at the calibre of the opponents dominantly dismissed; Coco Gauff, Petra Kvitova, Jessica Pegula, and Osaka in the final all without dropping a set.

"At the end I felt relief," Swiatek admitted afterwards. "I was surprised that I could actually handle all these matches. I had many doubts during this tournament. It's pretty crazy for me.

"I learned a lot about myself, that I can keep going, and really I don't need to feel like 100 percent on points to win matches against great players.

"I can trust myself a little bit more right now. I really used that streak to have more confidence, and also the ranking."

The newly crowned world No.1 became the youngest woman to win the Sunshine Double, joining Steffi Graf (1994/96), Kim Clijsters (2005), and Victoria Azarenka (2016) as the only four women to accomplish the formidable feat.

The best player in the world is determined to stay on her own plotted path by team Swiatek.

“I'm still the same person, the same Iga. I had my biggest idols basically stayed the same way and they are the same people. I don't want the success to change me like in a negative way,” insisted the 20-year-old.

“Obviously it's going to give me a lot of confidence and like satisfaction. But in terms of me as a person, I'm still going to be the same.”

For now, after celebrating with some well-deserved pizza, the Pole is going to soak it all in before resetting for a clay court campaign.

“For sure it's going to be nice for me to watch some highlights. I think we are going to also analyse some matches, and it's good to also see myself on the screen because I can see the different perspective,” suggested Swiatek, before signalling to Paris.

“I feel confident… it's just more fun for me to play on clay, and I always have that extra motivation before Roland Garros, so I'm pretty sure it's going to happen also this year."

“I'm just gonna be working hard. But the results we are going to see. I can't promise anything.”

Alcaraz and Swiatek’s tennis promises plenty on the Road to Roland-Garros. Make sure you tune in.