Is there any ceiling for Carlos Alcaraz as he surges up the ATP ladder?

Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz enters the ATP top 10 today after Barcelona triumph | Celso Pupo/Shutterstock

If you had to pick two protagonists that define where tennis is right now and how it will develop, they would be Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz.

The Pole is on a superlative 23-match unbeaten streak after capturing titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Stuttgart already this season. If we compare the WTA rankings to a mountain, Swiatek rests comfortably on its peak and gazes down at the pretenders below.

As for Alcaraz, while he's still on the slopes, the pace of his ascent is simultaneously magnificent to watch and terrifying for those in his path.

It doesn't take a tennis sage to realise that this lad from Murcia is frighteningly good and could win just about everything. In fact, collecting cheques and dispatching heavyweights has already become a habit for the 18-year-old.

This season, Alcaraz has already achieved 23 victories on the ATP Tour with only three losses. Those wins have brought him titles in Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona and a Masters 1000 breakthrough in Miami. Players vanquished already in 2022 include Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz.

The latest triumph in Catalonia propels Alcaraz into the top 10 for the first time and places him third in the Race to Turin. Twelve months ago he was outside the top 100. While at the start of the pandemic, he resided in the 300s.

You rarely see such a meteoric rise. One does come to mind though.

"He has intensity, he has the passion, he has the shots…He has all the ingredients to become a great champion."

They were the thoughts of Alcaraz's idol, Rafael Nadal, early last year after the 17-year-old earned his first grand slam match win at the Australian Open. Alcaraz and Nadal share a number of similarities, particularly the early success they've enjoyed.

And here's the most peculiar similarity: This week, Alcaraz joins the ATP's top 10 at the same age, on the same date and after winning the same tournament as Nadal did back in 2005.

Does that mean that Alcaraz is destined to win 20+ majors and become a legend of the sport? Of course not. But here's the scary thing: Alcaraz arguably looks better at this stage of his development than Nadal - or Federer or Djokovic.

His game is more complete than you'd expect for one so young. Physically, he's a 6' 1 powerhouse with tremendous speed and defensive skills. And in terms of strokes, there's little to dislike.

He can easily control play with his forehand, which alternates between sledgehammer and wand depending on his mood. Alcaraz's backhand is excellent, volleys solid and he excels on the run or lobbing from deep.

His serve certainly packs a punch with first deliveries above 130mph. However, his accuracy can still improve as he only averages around three aces per match on all surfaces.

But given the physical, technical and mental attributes he already possesses, it would get obscene if he moves closer to 10 aces per match.

That's certainly possible given the excellent support team he has. It's approaching four years since Alcaraz started working with former world no.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The former Roland Garros champion was convinced of the youngster's progress early on:

"I see Carlos practising every day, showing the level he can play and how he likes to compete and how he likes to face matches. I'm not surprised to see him succeed. I knew that if he could play at that level, he will reach his goals. I believe in him, and I think he can go very high."

Ferrero said that back in 2020 and it's clear that his guiding hand has been a key factor in helping Alcaraz flourish.

As we approach Roland Garros, the Alcaraz ascent looks certain to hasten if anything. The Spaniard has few points to defend in the coming weeks and can surely improve on his third round showing in Paris last year.

Carlos is most certainly calling and the players above won't escape hearing what he has to say from the baseline and beyond.

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