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When Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Richard Gasquet and Felix Auger-Aliassime are the only names on the list you are trying to join, you know you’re on the cusp of something special.
This is where Carlos Alcaraz finds himself as he prepares for yet another final appearance on the ATP Challenger Tour. On Sunday, the 17-year-old Spaniard will face countryman Pedro Martinez with the Alicante crown on the line.
The teenage titan has been tearing up the Challenger circuit in recent months, earning statement win after statement win while etching his name in the record books whenever he takes the court. One week ago, Alcaraz clinched the second title of his young career in Barcelona, and on Sunday he will vie for trophy No. 3 at his home base of Alicante.
A victory over Martinez would see him join Djokovic, Del Potro, Gasquet and Auger-Aliassime as the only players aged 17 & under to lift three Challenger trophies. In fact, at the age of 17 years and five months, he would become the second-youngest to join the club, behind only Gasquet.
Youngest To Reach Four Challenger Finals
||Fourth Final Reached
|16 years, 9 months||Rafael Nadal||Barletta 2003
|16 years, 10 months||Richard Gasquet||Napoli 2003|
|17 years, 5 months||Carlos Alcaraz||Alicante 2020|
|17 years, 10 months||Juan Martin del Potro||Segovia 2006|
There are few players as young as Alcaraz who can demonstrate the poise and maturity of a veteran. The Murcia native is as unflappable as they come, especially with the pressure on and his back against the wall. Alcaraz, who trains at the Equelite Ferrero Academy and is under the tutelage of former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, is producing a magical week at his home club.
He has registered consecutive wins from a set down to reach the final, extending his dominant run in deciding-set matches, which now stands at 11-2 since the restart following the COVID-19 hiatus. Against Juan Pablo Ficovich in the quarter-finals, he trailed 3-6, 0-3 before mounting a stunning comeback. And on Saturday, he rallied from a 1-6 deficit to defeat fellow Spaniard Mario Vilella Martinez.
“It’s been another great week,” said Alcaraz. “I wanted to improve physically this year and it’s showing on the court. I am happy to play well at this tournament, at home, and I’ve been motivated for this for a long time. To play in front of my people is a great joy. It is also a motivation to do well in front of everyone that has been supporting me for so long.”
Not only has Alcaraz been the deciding-set maestro, but the 17-year-old is also becoming the tie-break king on the ATP Challenger Tour. He is a combined 13-1 in ‘breakers in his young career and is a dominant 8-0 in 2020. When the pressure is on, the Spaniard shines.
2020 Challenger Wins Leaders (since restart on 17 Aug)
|(1) Carlos Alcaraz
|(2) Aslan Karatsev||15-1||2|
|(T3) Oscar Otte||12-3||1|
|(T3) Lorenzo Musetti||12-4||1|
Martinez, meanwhile, is bidding for his first title since 2018. The World No. 97 entered the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, continuing a breakthrough season of his own.
The 23-year-old is coming off a third round appearance at Roland Garros, his best result at a Grand Slam tournament. It’s been a year of firsts for Martinez, who won his first match at a slam at the Australian Open, earned his first win on the ATP Tour in Cordoba and his first victory at the ATP Masters 1000 level in Rome, where he claimed his first Top 50 win over Sam Querrey.
On Sunday, Martinez will hope for another first. He has yet to defeat Alcaraz in two previous encounters. Last year, they battled twice on the Challenger circuit, with his 17-year-old countryman prevailing 6-3, 7-6(4) in Murcia and 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in Sevilla.
One year after falling to Pablo Andujar in the 2019 Alicante championship, Martinez is hoping to finally get his hands on the trophy.
“I am from Valencia and this tournament is very close to home for me. I feel at home here at the academy,” said Martinez. “It’s very important to have two Spanish players in the final, so I am looking forward to the match tomorrow. The matches in the quarters and semis were very tough, so I have a lot of confidence. It’s going to be a competitive match and Carlos is playing at a very high level. Hopefully I can get the victory.”