Carlos Alcaraz didn’t have to wait long to claim his first ATP Tour title…
The 18-year-old Spanish tennis player and #NextGenATP star, competing in his first-ever ATP Tour final, defeated former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet emphatically 6-2, 6-2 to triumph at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag.
In winning the title on Sunday evening in Umag, Alcaraz becomes the youngest champion in more than a decade.
Alcaraz is the youngest tour-level champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori emerged victorious in Delray Beach in 2008.
”It’s amazing. I have a lot of emotions. I’m really, really happy with this victory, this win, my first ATP [title],” Alcaraz said. “I’m going to enjoy this moment a lot.”
Alcaraz crushed a final forehand winner to close out his victory before launching a ball high into the Croatian night. Alcaraz’s coach and mentor, former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, rose from his seat and pumped his fist while sporting a wide smile across his face to celebrate his charge’s breakthrough. Shortly thereafter, the pair shared a warm embrace.
This was an ironic matchup in Alcaraz’s first championship clash. Gasquet was also a highly regarded teenager, who claimed his first tour-level match win as a 15-year-old in 2002, more than a year before Alcaraz was born. The Frenchman remains the youngest match winner in ATP Tour history (since 1990).
Alcaraz has had plenty of eyes on him since bursting onto the ATP Tour in Rio de Janeiro in 2020, when he also won three ATP Challenger Tour titles. It was a matter of when, not if he would position himself for tour-level glory. And on his first opportunity, the teen showed no nerves. The seventh seed overwhelmed the 15-time ATP Tour titlist with impressive power and poise over one hour and 17 minutes.
“I had a lot of good moments in this tournament. I beat five great tennis players,” Alcaraz said. “I think that I grew up a lot in this tournament and I keep a lot of experience from this tournament. It’s going to be useful for the future.”
Gasquet has one of the most picturesque one-handed backhands of his generation and a great ability to mix up spins and speeds to trouble his opponents. But Alcaraz was never flustered against the veteran, unleashing one lethal strike after another. He broke the Frenchman’s serve four times without losing serve himself.
The 18-year-old set the tone early in the first set, cracking a rocket-like inside-in forehand for a winner to break for a 2-1 advantage, and he never looked back. Gasquet double faulted to give his younger opponent a break advantage in the second set, and he was never able to work his way back into the match.
The Frenchman earned three break points at 1-4 in the second set, but he was never able to control the rally on big points. Gasquet, who needed three hours and 11 minutes to win his semi-final against Daniel Altmaier on Saturday, was trying to win his first ATP Tour title since ’s-Hertogenbosch in 2018.
“It was tough for me to play [with] full intensity. I had a tough match yesterday. It was tough, and especially with a guy like Carlos, who is playing really fast with a lot of energy and spin,” Gasquet said. “He’s playing unbelievable. He’s only 18 and of course he has a great future and I just couldn’t play at his level and his intensity. That was the key of the match and he didn’t lose a point. He played well, very solid. He’s a great player.”
Alcaraz is the youngest Spaniard to win an ATP Tour title since countryman Rafael Nadal claimed his first trophy in Sopot in 2004. Nadal was just eight days younger that day than Alcaraz is today.