Carlos Alcaraz has taken the tennis world by storm, surpassing even his own expectations for 2022.
At the start of the season, the 19-year-old rising star made it his main aim to break into the top 20. After being ranked 120th this time last year, Alcaraz has skyrocketed into the world number six spot.
With four titles to his name already this year, the Spaniard has taken centre stage on the ATP tour and the plaudits are pouring in.
Justine Henin is one of the latest tennis icons to pay homage to Alcaraz, who recently became the first man in history to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal back-to-back on clay.
Seven-time Grand Slam winner Henin compared Alcaraz to the legends he thwarted earlier this month at the Madrid Open, where he won his fifth career title.
“In terms of the game, Carlos Alcaraz seems to me more complete than Nadal, [Roger] Federer or Djokovic,” the former world number one told Belgian newspaper Sudinfo (h/t Tennis World USA).
Indeed, the young Spanish star has been lauded for his all-round performances. Despite making his ATP Tour debut just two years ago at age 16, Alcaraz’s game has improved in an astonishing manner.
He became the youngest ever men’s singles participant at the 2021 Australian Open, where he reached the second round. This historic achievement turned out to be one of many and the wins started to become more frequent.
Giant toppling Alcaraz
Alcaraz triumphed in Madrid to win his second consecutive title and fourth overall this year. After defeating fellow Spaniard Nadal 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the quarter-final, the 19-year-old toppled Djokovic after a sensational battle that lasted more than three-and-a-half hours on the court.
Alcaraz eliminated the world number one after a thrilling 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 win to reach the final against Alexander Zverev.
The Spanish star has found himself compared to Nadal many times already, as similarities have been drawn between the two during the early stages of their careers.
But the 21-time Grand Slam champion has urged the comparisons to stop so Alcaraz’s journey can be appreciated to its fullest.
“The only thing we can do is enjoy the career of an amazing player like Carlos and it will be better, even if it’s interesting, that you stop comparing him to me,” Nadal said after beating John Isner in his opening Italian Open match.
“If he is able to win 25 Grand Slams, it’s going to be amazing for him and our country and I will be happy for him, but let’s let him enjoy his personal career.”
But of course, at the rate Alcaraz is rising, it is inevitable he will be likened to Nadal. Opinions like those of Henin, who believes the young Spaniard is “more complete” than the ‘Big Three’, will only become more popular if the 19-year-old can continue his astonishing upward trajectory.