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Carlos Alcaraz, just 19 years old, aims for a Grand Slam title


ROQUEBRUNE-CAP-MARTIN, France — Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz was on his way to a series of television interviews at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters here last month when something stopped him in his tracks: an exposed Maserati MC20.

Cars have become a passion for Alcaraz, even though he only got his driver’s license this year, well after he turned 18. The 15-minute test, Alcaraz admitted, was “really, really difficult. I was really nervous and sweating.

When it comes to choosing his own dream car, Alcaraz said he would eschew a sports car for a more practical sport utility vehicle, even if it was the $200,000 Lamborghini Urus. With over $5 million in career prize money, plus income from endorsement deals, he can have any car he wants.

On the pitch, Alcaraz revs his own engine, bellowing and pumping his fists after hard-earned points. He can quickly cover the court from side to side and from behind the baseline to the net. His shot selection is staggering, with drop shots hitting so skillfully opponents are disgusted.

A year ago, Alcaraz was on the verge of the top 100 best men’s players in the world and was forced to play three qualifying matches to reach the main draw at Roland Garros. This year, he enters the event with a career-high No. 6 ranking, having won four ATP titles in the past four months.

With his win in Barcelona on April 24, Alcaraz became the youngest player to break into the world top 10 since compatriot and idol Rafael Nadal did so by winning the same tournament on the same day in 2005. Alcaraz followed it by winning his second ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid – his first was the Miami Open in April – becoming the first player to beat Nadal and Novak Djokovic back to back on clay. Heading into Roland Garros, Alcaraz is 28-3 this season.

Although focused and lively on the pitch, Alcaraz, who turned 19 on May 5, is ready to push his years past. He wasn’t even shaken when his luggage went missing when he returned home to Spain from Miami. In Monte Carlo, he walked through a line of television cameras, offering similar quotes to each. And he never stopped smiling.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed.

You have been compared to Nadal, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. What matters most to you?

Of course Rafa. He’s Spanish, I grew up watching his games and he was my idol since I was a kid.

We’ve seen others described as the new Nadal who couldn’t take the pressure. How are you holding up?

Everyone knows who Rafa is and what he has achieved in tennis, so I try not to think that I am the new Nadal. I’m just trying to be Carlos Alcaraz. If I put pressure on myself trying to be Rafa Nadal and win 21 Grand Slams, it’s really difficult, and in the end it’s dangerous for me.

Last year you said your goal was to be in the top 20, and you’ve already surpassed it. And after?

Late last year I said my goal was to win an ATP 500 and then a Masters 1000. I’ve done both, so now I’m trying to win a Grand Slam and qualify for the ATP Finals.

Your coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, told you not to be in a rush to get to the top. You didn’t listen. What does he tell you now?

He tells me to stay calm, to do the things I’m already doing, to go my own way. Don’t think about this tournament or the top five. Stay on the same level and be the same person I was last year.

You and Iga Swiatek, the new female No. 1, both enjoyed great success at a young age. Have you spoken with her?

Not really. I wrote to congratulate her after her victory at the Miami Open, but she did not reply. I don’t have his number, so I wrote on Instagram. I think she got a million messages.

I don’t know if you’ve seen “King Richard”, the biopic about Venus and Serena Williams’ father, but who would you like to play in Carlos Alcaraz’s story?

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but [Leonardo] Di Caprio.

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