History made! – Alcaraz defeats Schwartzman at Rio to become youngest ATP 500 champion

Carlos Alcaraz powered past Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman to become the youngest ATP 500 champion in history and ensure himself of a top-20 ranking on Monday.

Carlos Alcaraz Rio Open 2022 Tennis – ATP 500 – Rio Open – Jockey Club Brasileiro, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – February 20, 2022 Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz Garfia reacts during his final against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman || 222610_0023 / Panoramic

The meteoric ascent of 18-year-old phenom Carlos Alcaraz continues unabated this week, as the Spaniard claimed his biggest ATP title on Sunday, defeating Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-2 in the Rio Open final.

With his victory, which lasted one hour and 27 minutes, Alcaraz becomes the youngest ATP 500 champion since the category began, in 2009.

Alcaraz’s latest groundbreaking achievement (last September he became the youngest US Open champion in Open Era history) surely is just the beginning of bigger things to come. The talented teen, coached by former Grand Slam champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, has been a player on the rise ever since he made his ATP Tour debut in 2020 in Rio. Then he was ranked 406 in the world, and managed to excite the crowd as he claimed his maiden ATP match win.

Tomorrow he’ll be ranked inside the top-20 for the first time, a clear sign that his work is paying off.

Alcaraz – the best I played on clay in a long time

Both of Alcaraz’s titles have come on clay, but he entered the week with a lower winning percentage (12-7, .632) on clay than on hard courts (22-11, .667). Not to worry, the Spaniard demonstrated all week why he can be such a force on the slower clay as he weaved through established and experienced clay-courters such as Jaume Munar, Federico Delbonis, Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini and Schwartzman.

After five eye-opening wins, the 18-year-old told reporters that he feels this week represents the best he’s played on the surface in a long time.

“A great week for me, it has been a great level, the best tournament I played on clay since a long time, so I’m really happy with my performance today and throughout the whole week – it’s an amazing feeling right now,” Alcaraz said.

He’s known for his pulsating ground strokes, but Alcaraz demonstrated a veteran’s feel for the drop shot – both when to use the tactic and how to execute it – on Sunday. When he found Schwartzman dropping back deep in the court during the final he used it to keep him honest – and it worked exceptionally well.

“I think it’s my game, a lot of variety,” Alcaraz said. “This is the key to winning the match. I know Diego, how hard he is playing, this was really important for me.”

A blistering finish – 8 of the final 10 games

Alcaraz and Schwartzman, the 2018 Rio champion, were neck and neck through eight games of the opening set, but the youngster played like a savvy veteran from that point onward, snagging the final two games of the opening set, closing it out with a perfectly struck lob winner that Schwartzman could only watch.

In the second set Alcaraz showed no sign of nerves. He steamrolled the world No 14 and finished the match at a full sprint, winning eight of the final ten games.

Alcaraz finished with 21 winners against just 8 unforced errors, while Schwartzman could only manage 10 winners against 11 unforced. the Spaniard struck 13 forehand winners and won 42 of 75 baseline points to improve to 7-1 on the young season.

Ready to win a Masters 1000 title next?

A reporter asked Alcaraz, who will turn 19 on May 5, if he felt he is ready to step up to the next level and win a Masters 1000. He says the challenge is certainly a lot tougher, but was quick to add that he has confidence in his rising level.

“In a Masters there are the best players in the world, but I’m ready to move to this level,” he said. “I’m feeling good, and believing in myself, so I think I’m ready.”

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