Who is 'new Rafael Nadal' Carlos Alcaraz and how many Grand Slams will he win?

Carlos Alcaraz is the teenager making a BIG name for himself in men's tennis right now, and here is everything you need to know about the man they call 'the new Rafael Nadal'.

Men's tennis has felt like it has been in a holding pattern for years now.

For all Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have been icons of the game, they have been so good they have essentially held the whole ATP hostage to their brilliance.

Since they emerged and raised the bar to seemingly impossibly high levels, there hasn't been a player come through who looks like being able to follow them - until now.

Who is Carlos Alcaraz?

According to most analysts, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz Garfia is the top young player in the game right now.

Alcaraz has already made his presence felt on the ATP Tour, breaking into the top 100 just three weeks after his 18th birthday.

Less than a year later he is on the verge of the top 10 and, after winning the Miami Open in April, the third youngest Masters level champion in tennis history. 

Alcaraz is a big-hitting power player who is not afraid to come forward and possesses incredible accuracy on the move. He plays right handed with a two-handed backhand, which he is able to use to attack both down the line and cross court.

It wasn't long before Alcaraz cracked the top ten, with him doing so after winning Barcelona in April. Remarkably, that saw him enter the top ten at the same age as Nadal did, after the same tournament as Nadal did, and even on the exact same day as Nadal did.

How good is Carlos Alcaraz?

Carlos Alcaraz backhand

When you're talking about Carlos Alcaraz, you're not talking about a young player who has the potential to be good - you're talking about a very young player who is already extremely good.

Alcaraz is already on the brink of breaking the top 10 despite being just 18 years old. That's company in which he is already very comfortable.

In fact, he has already played 11 matches against top 10 players and he has won five of them. Stefanos Tsitsipas has been vanquished twice by Alcaraz, once at a Grand Slam, while he has also beaten Matteo Berrettini twice, and on two different surfaces.

His other win against a top ten player came against Jannik Sinner, who he beat at the Paris Masters last year.

Alcaraz is already winning titles too. He won an ATP 250 in Umag in 2021 and an ATP 500 in Rio earlier this year. Both of those came on clay, which is a surface upon which all Spanish players excel. 

The 2022 Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami elevated Alcaraz further, with him reaching the semi-finals of Indian Wells and winning Miami - the biggest win of his career so far.

Is Carlos Alcaraz the 'new Rafael Nadal'?

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal

There are certainly similarities between them. Like Nadal, Alcaraz has developed physically at a very young age and has been hailed as a precocious talent within the game for years.

That is largely where the comparisons end, though. Yes, Alcaraz is a fierce competitor, extremely humble, and very comfortable on clay, but those are common attributes in all Spanish players, not just Nadal.

The things that set Nadal apart are his forehand and his supreme use of top spin, particularly on clay, although he is also a deceptively brilliant volleyer. Alcaraz, meanwhile, is a power player who hits a great flat ball and is superb on the run.

Alcaraz himself is keen to avoid comparisons, of course. In 2021 he told the circling Spanish media: "I don't like being compared to Nadal, but if they compare me to him, it's that I'm doing something right.

"I don't like it because Rafa there is only one and there will only be one. I want to be Carlos Alcaraz and that people look at me as Carlos Alcaraz."

Alcaraz has already played Nadal three times, with one of the meetings coming at the French Open. Nadal has won all three, but it's fair to say he is just as impressed as the rest of us.

"I think he has all the shots," Nadal said of Alcaraz after beating him at Indian Wells this year.

"He can play very aggressive. He can play defensive because he's super fast. He can defend amazing balls. Of course, when he's playing aggressive, it is difficult to stop him because the quality of his ball is very high.

"I think he has all the ingredients to become an amazing champion."

Alcaraz justified Nadal's belief in him when the two met for their fourth match-up against each other at the Madrid Masters in May.

Nadal may not have been at his best, but Alcaraz overcame an ankle injury midway through the match to become the first teenager to ever beat the King of Clay.

Who is Carlos Alcaraz's coach?

To say that Carlos Alcaraz is in good hands would be a real understatement. He is coached by Juan Carlos Ferrero, a name that will be very familiar to tennis fans.

The Spaniard was an ATP world number one in the early 2000s and reached three Grand Slam finals, winning one of them (French Open 2003).

Ferrero oversaw the early part of Alexander Zverev's career and has spent the last two years working with Alcaraz, whose talent he identified immediately.

How does Carlos Alcaraz compare to previous top young tennis stars?

Exceptionally well. Perhaps the best and most dramatic indicator of just how good Alcaraz is, and can be, is that he cracked the ATP top 20 at a younger age than Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Federer and Nadal were both 19 when they debuted in the top 20, while Nadal was 18 years and 305 days. Alcaraz was 18 years and 292 days.

That makes Alcaraz the third youngest player to ever enter the ATP top 20, with only Pete Sampras and Andrei Medvedev doing it sooner.

Youngest players to break ATP top 20

1 - Pete Sampras - 18 years 198 days

2 - Andrei Medvedev - 18 years 217 days

3 -Carlos Alcaraz - 18 years 292 days

4 - Goran Ivanisevic - 18 years 313 days

5 - Rafael Nadal - 18 years 315 days

6 - Lleyton Hewitt - 18 years 326 days

7 - Andy Roddick - 18 years 355 days

8 - Richard Gasquet - 19 years 16 days

9 - Felix Auger-Aliassime - 19 years 10 days

10 - Andy Murray - 19 years 98 days

11 - Novak Djokovic - 19 years 140 days

12 - Jim Courier - 19 years 207 days

The 2022 Sunshine Double also provided a valuable insight into just how good Alcaraz compares to previous greats.

He reached the semi-finals of Indian Wells and won Miami. Previously, only four teenages had reached at least the semi-finals of both - Andre Agassi, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. All reached world number one and all won multiple majors.

How many Grand Slams will Carlos Alcaraz win?

That's impossible to predict right now, but it looks almost certain that Alcaraz will win at least one Grand Slam and probably multiple majors.

Of the other players on the above list, only Richard Gasquet and Andrei Medvedev failed to become Grand Slam champions. Felix Auger-Aliassime has not yet either, but he is still only 20.

Three of them - Sampras, Nadal and Djokovic - have won 55 majors between them, and Andy Murray (3) Jim Courier (4) and Lleyton Hewitt (2) were also multiple major winners and world number ones.

There is an awful lot of young talent in the ATP right now, meaning Alcaraz will face plenty of competition. However, it would be a major surprise if he didn't win multiple majors - some analysts are even predicting he will challenge the numbers delivered by Nadal, Federer and Djokovic.

Who will be Carlos Alcaraz's biggest rivals?

Jannik Sinner

It is starting to look like Jannik Sinner may be the other truly elite talent in Alcaraz's generation, and that is a rivalry that could develop into something special.

Sinner is just a couple of years older than Alcaraz, and he broke into the top 20 before his 20th birthday too.

Felix Auger-Aliassime is another who appears to have all the technical tools, although serious doubts remain about his mental toughness. However, the Canadian is working with Toni Nadal, Rafa's uncle and former coach, to eradicate that weakness.

You also can't overlook Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Both are still awaiting their first Grand Slam titles but both have lost in finals, so they are not far away. Daniil Medvedev will be the main obstacle for Alcaraz for now, of course. Nadal and Djokovic will likely step away from tennis in the next couple of years, but Medvedev will be sticking around a lot longer.

Lorenzo Musetti could also yet become a major rival to Alcaraz. The Italian is a touch and finesse player rather than relying on power, so he is taking a little longer to develop. The talent is definitely there, though.

READ MORE: A brief history of time…spent as world number one, as Medvedev closes in on returning to the top

Latest news