Spanish tennis prodigy Carlos Alcaraz has won his first ever Grand Slam match in comprehensive fashion, with the 17-year-old dropping just nine points in the first set en route to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over fellow qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp.
Alcaraz was at the start of 2021 endorsed by Rafael Nadal’s coach and uncle Toni as “Rafael’s natural replacement”, a comparison that was even more uncanny when the youngster trained with Nadal in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.
Last week, Alcaraz dismantled world No.15 David Goffin in straight sets in an Aus Open lead up event, while he is coached by former world No.1 and Spanish tennis great Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Watch over 40 live ATP Tour tournaments, 40 live WTA Tour tournaments, and every ATP + WTA Finals match live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Young sporting prodigies, however, are not always able to fulfil their immense potential – something Ferrero is acutely aware of as Alcaraz tries to make his way.
“If you hear that from Toni, everybody is open ears. Of course, that’s not easy,” Ferrero told The Age.
“That pressure for someone who’s 17 – it’s not great. In Spain, everybody is saying that he’s the next Rafa. For him, it’s not easy to hear that.
“He’s not saying anything about it and as his team, we are trying to make a big wall around him.
“We’re trying to make him do his own thing and play a good level. We’re not trying to hear all the mosquitoes that are around. But this isn’t easy.”
Asked what he took onboard from his time hitting with Nadal, Alcaraz said his dogged determination would never be forgotten.
“I think with the intensity he train, no? He train with a lot of intensity all the time,” he said after his win.
“He hit the ball very hard. Each ball, he try to hit harder every ball. I think he’s focus from the first ball, from the first ball to the last ball.
“I think it is a good thing to keep it, yeah.”