PARIS: Carlos Alcaraz said ending the year as the youngest-ever world tennis player was an “amazing achievement” and a reward for his hard work.
The Spaniard will have turned 19 years, 214 days on December 5, the year-end date of 2022 when he takes over the mantle of youngest from Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who was 20 years and 275 days old in 2001.
Alcaraz made sure of his top spot on Tuesday when Casper Ruud beat Taylor Fritz, ensuring that Rafael Nadal would not make it to the last four at the ATP Finals in Turin. The older Spaniard needed to win the championship to finish the season number one.
Alcaraz started the year 32nd in the world and achieved the greatest height to take first place in the 50-year rankings. He was unable to play in Turin due to an abdominal injury.
He became the first player outside the Big Four of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal to top the final rankings since Andy Roddick in 2003.
“It means a lot to me. I mean, to have this trophy, world number one, to be part of tennis history along with so many legends, it’s a great feeling for me,” Alcaraz said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“It’s an amazing feat. I mean, all the hard work pays off.
“Yeah, for me it’s great to lift that trophy today.”
Ending the year as the youngest number one ever is the latest milestone for the humble, muscular star from the small town of El Palmar in Murcia.
Alcaraz learned the game at a tennis school run by his father. Alcaraz hit the Madrid Grand Prix in May when he became the only man to defeat both Nadal and Djokovic in the same clay-court event.
When he broke into the world’s top five in July, he was the youngest man to do so since 2005.
His former world number one coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, believes that if Alcaraz remains fit, he can win 30 Grand Slam titles. Nadal holds the record at 22.
Despite the frustration with not being able to play this week, Alcaraz said he was encouraged by the speed with which his injury was healing.
“It’s going really well,” he said. It’s going really fast, as well.
“I can say in a week we’re getting a lot better with the injury.
“I will say at the start of the season, I will be ready, I will be 100 per cent.”
Alcaraz said that, after the holidays, he would dispense with any pre-tournament tournaments and go straight to the Australian Open, which begins January 16 in Melbourne.
The Cars reached the third round in this year’s edition
“After the holidays, I’m focused on pre-season, I’m focused on improving, and starting the Australian Open as best I can.
“I don’t know how the injury will go. But I can say I’m going straight to Australia