Carlos Alcaraz, of Spain, celebrates after winning the final match against Alexander Zverev, of Germany, at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, May 8, 2022. AP
Only a year later, Alcaraz already feels he belongs among the best.
The Spanish teenage sensation capped another impressive week with a straight-set victory over Alexander Zverev on Sunday to win the Madrid Open and become the second-youngest player to win two Masters 1000 titles.
His comfortable 6-3, 6-1 win over Zverev followed victories over his idol Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
``Last year I was going through these experiences for the first time, playing against the best players, playing in the Masters 1000, and I learned a lot,`` Alcaraz said. ``Now it's different. I go onto the court knowing that I can win, with the confidence that I can win at any moment.''
Alcaraz became the youngest winner in Madrid, and the second youngest to win two Masters 1000 trophies after Nadal won in Monte Carlo and Rome in 2005 as an 18-year-old. Alcaraz had already become the youngest to enter the top 10 since Nadal did it in 2005.
``It feels great to be able to beat these players,'' the 19-year-old Alcaraz said. ``To beat two of the best players in history and then Zverev, the world No. 3. He is a great player. I would say this is the best week of my life.''
It was the seventh straight win over a top-10 player for Alcaraz, and his tour-leading fourth title of the year. He also has the most wins this season with 28, one more than Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Alcaraz tried to downplay the hype about whether he is the best player right now, though.
``Djokovic is the No. 1 in the ranking,'' he said. ``It's not because I won in Barcelona and beat Djokovic and Rafa in Madrid that I will consider myself the best player in the world. Also, I think I'm going to be No. 6 tomorrow, so I still have five players in front of me to be the best one.``
For Zverev, who was trying to win his second consecutive Madrid title _ and third overall _ there was no doubt about who was playing the best tennis.
``Right now you are the best player in the world,'' Zverev said before the trophy ceremony and joked about his opponent's age. ``Even though you are still 5 years old, you are still beating us all, so great to see for tennis that we have such a new superstar who is going to win many Grand Slams, who is going to be No. 1 and is going to win this tournament many times.''
Alcaraz had won his first Masters 1000 tournament in Miami earlier this year. He had also won in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. His first career title came in Umag last year.
Alcaraz's three losses this season came against Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo, Nadal in Indian Wells and Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open.
After long three-set wins over Nadal and Djokovic, the seventh-seeded Alcaraz kept his high energy from the start against Zverev and was in control throughout the match at the ``Caja Magica'' center court.
He didn't face any break points and converted four of the eight he had against the second-seeded Zverev. Alcaraz had 11 unforced errors compared to 25 by Zverev.
``I am 19 years old, which I think is the key to be able to play long and tough matches in a row. I am feeling great physically,'' Alcaraz said.
Alcaraz said he had been worried about his condition after waking up with an infected blister and a swollen right ankle, which he injured in the win against Nadal on Friday.
Zverev criticized the ATP Tour for putting him on the late-night sessions and said he was at a disadvantage against Alcaraz after having to go to bed after 4 a.m. in previous nights. He said the ``ATP's job was an absolute disgrace this week.''
``Today, obviously, even if I'm fresh, probably I would not beat Carlos, but definitely would be a better match,'' he said.
Alcaraz said it was special to win in Madrid, where he first started watching tennis at an early age.
``Watching Rafa lift this trophy gave me a lot of power to work hard for this moment,'' Alcaraz said. ``It is a great moment for me. It is the first tournament I watched, so lifting the trophy today is so emotional.''
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