MADRID – When Carlos Alcaraz played in his first Madrid Open as an 18-year-old, his goal was to gain experience and learn from the best players.
After only one year, Alcaraz feels that it is among the best.
The young Spanish star capped another brilliant week by defeating Alexander Zverev on Sunday to win the Madrid Open and become the second youngest player to win two Masters 1000 titles.
His comfortable victory over Zverev 6-3 6-1 followed victories over his idol Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
“Last year I was going through these experiences for the first time, playing against the best players, playing in the Masters 1000, and I learned a lot,” Alcaraz said. “Now it’s different. I go to the field knowing I can win, and I’m sure I can win at any moment.”
Alcaraz became the youngest winner in Madrid, and the second youngest to win two Masters 1000 awards after Nadal’s wins in Monte Carlo and Rome in 2005 when he was 18 years old. Alcaraz is already the youngest to enter the top ten since Nadal did it in 2005.
“It feels great to be able to beat these guys,” said the 19-year-old Alcaraz. “Beating two of the best players in history and then the world number three Zverev. He’s a fantastic player. I would say this has been the best week of my life.”
It was his seventh consecutive win over a top-10 player for Alcaraz, and his fourth title this year. He also has the most wins this season with 28, one win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Alcaraz has tried to play down the hype about whether or not he is the best player at the moment.
“Djokovic is No. 1 in the standings,” he said. “Not because I won in Barcelona and beat Djokovic and Rafa in Madrid I will consider myself the best player in the world. I also think that I will be number 6 tomorrow, so I still have five players up front. To be the best.”
For Zverev, who was trying to win his second title in a row with Real Madrid – and his third overall – there was no doubt who was playing the best tennis.
“Now you are the best player in the world,” Zverev said before the cup ceremony. “Even though you’re still five years old, you still beat us all, and it’s so great to see that in tennis that we have a new star who will win many major tournaments, who will be No. 1 and will go on to win this tournament many times.”
Alcaraz won his first Masters 1000 in Miami earlier this year. He also won in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. His first professional title came in Umag last year.
Alcaraz’s three defeats this season came against Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo, Nadal at Indian Wells and Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open.
After a lengthy three-set victory over Nadal and Djokovic, seventh seed Alcaraz kept his energy high from the start against Zverev and was in control throughout the match at Central Court Kaja Magica.
He faced no break points and converted four of the eight he had against second seed Zverev. Alcaraz had 11 non-compulsory fouls compared to Zverev’s 25 fouls.
“I am 19 years old and I think it is the key to being able to play long and difficult matches in a row. I feel better physically,” Alcaraz said.
Alcaraz said he was concerned about his condition after he woke up with an infected ulcer and swelling in his right ankle he picked up in the victory over Nadal on Friday.
Zverev criticized the ATP Tour for putting him in late-night sessions and said he was at a disadvantage against Alcaraz after having to sleep after 4 a.m. the previous nights. “The ATP job has been an absolute disgrace this week,” he said.
“Today, obviously, even if I’m new, I probably won’t beat Carlos, but for sure it will be a better match,” he said.
It was great to win in Madrid, Alcaraz said, as he started watching tennis for the first time at a young age.
“Watching Rafa lifting the trophy gave me a lot of strength to work hard at this moment,” Alcaraz said. “It’s a great moment for me. It’s the first tournament I’m watching, so lifting the cup today is very moving.”