Carlos Alcaraz will make his ATP Finals debut next Monday against Alexander Zverev. At the time, Alcaraz was ranked 132nd in the world and had won just four matches in a one-sided victory. Zverev later claimed that the Spaniard would be among the world’s top 10 by 2024 – a vastly underestimated estimate considering Alcaraz became the youngest ever ATP world No. 1 last September.
Alcaraz and Zverev will renew their rivalry in Turin, with world number two Alcaraz set to make his debut at the end-of-season event and the German set to make his first comeback since winning the trophy in 2021 following an injury last year. The head-to-head record between the two is currently 3-3, with the 20-year-old German winning three of his last four matches.
The Spaniard is a far cry from the form he was in when they first met at the Mexican Open in March 2021, when Alcaraz was just 17 years old and needed a wild card to compete. He has also proved Zverev wrong, with the 26-year-old believing it would take Alcaraz three years to break into the world’s top 10.
“He’s 17 years old and everyone is watching him now,” Zverev said after beating then world No. 132 Alcaraz 6-3 6-1 in his first-round match.” I remember when I was 17 years old playing on the tour, he played unbelievable tennis. My guess is that by 2024, three years from now, he’ll be 20 and in the top 10.”
While Zverev, ranked eighth in the world, was full of praise for Alcaraz, even comparing him to Rafael Nadal, he clearly underestimated his rival’s talent as Alcaraz went on to win two Grand Slam titles and ascend to the world number one spot.
At the time, Zverev added: “He plays very well, moves well, hits the ball very powerfully, so I think he has a bright future. I think he’s going to go up in the rankings very quickly.” Alcaraz’s rise in the rankings has been very fast indeed, much faster than the 26-year-old expected.
Within 17 months of their first encounter in Acapulco, the 19-year-old Alcaraz lifted his first Grand Slam trophy at the 2022 U.S. Open. He then became the youngest player in ATP history to be ranked No. 1 in the world and added to his Grand Slam record by winning this year’s Wimbledon Open, becoming the first player in a decade to beat Novak Djokovic on Center Court.
The Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the tournament last year with an abdominal injury and is now hoping to win the ATP Finals on his debut. Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are in the red group alongside Alcaraz and Zverev. Meanwhile, the green group includes Novak Djokovic, Jannik Cinna, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rouen.