Carlos Alcaraz will make his ATP Finals debut against Alexander Zverev on Monday, almost three years after their first meeting in Acapulco. At the time, Alcaraz was ranked at No 132 in the world and he managed to win just four games in the one-sided defeat. Zverev later claimed that the Spaniard would be a top-10 player by 2024 – a big underestimation given that Alcaraz became the youngest-ever ATP world No 1 last September.
Alcaraz and Zverev are set to renew their rivalry in Turin as the world No 2 makes his debut at the season-ending tournament and the German returns for the first time since lifting the trophy in 2021, having been injured last year. They are currently all square at 3-3 in their head-to-head, with the 20-year-old winning three of the last four meetings.
The Spaniard is worlds away from the player he was when they faced off for the first time at the Mexico Open in March 2021, when Alcaraz was aged just 17 and needed a wildcard to enter the tournament. And he has also already proven Zverev wrong as the 26-year-old thought it would take three years for Alcaraz to enter the world’s top 10.
“He is 17 years old and everyone is looking at him right now,” Zverev said after beating the then-world No 132 6-3 6-1 in the first round. “I remember when I was 17, coming out on tour and, he is playing incredible tennis. My guess is that he is going to be top 10 by 2024, in three years’ time when he is 20.”
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While the world No 8 was full of praise for Alcaraz – even comparing him to Rafael Nadal – he clearly underestimated his rival’s talents as Alcaraz has since gone on to win two Grand Slam titles and has already reached No 1 in the world.
At the time, Zverev added: “He plays extremely well, moves well and hits the ball very hard, so I think he has a bright future ahead. I think he will move up the rankings quite quickly.” And Alcaraz did shoot up the rankings at a rapid rate – much faster than the 26-year-old expected.
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Within 17 months of that first meeting in Acapulco, a 19-year-old Alcaraz was able to lift his first Major trophy at the 2022 US Open. He subsequently became the youngest-ever world No 1 in ATP history and he has already added to his Grand Slam haul, winning Wimbledon this year by becoming the first man in a decade to beat Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.
The Spaniard will now be hoping to win the ATP Finals on his debut after an abdominal injury forced him to withdraw from the tournament last year. Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are also in the Red Group alongside Alcaraz and Zverev. Meanwhile, the Green Group is made up of Novak Djokovic, Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune.
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