After exactly 375 days, the ATP Top 10 is once again without a teenager as Carlos Alcaraz, World No.2, and Holger Rune, World No.7, both celebrated their 20th birthdays in the last week.
Denmark’s Rune turned 20 on April 29 while Spain’s Alcaraz left his teen years behind on Friday.
In the last one-and-a-half year, both Alcaraz and Rune have attracted a whole new set of fans to the tennis world with their fresh and aggressive style of play. Their impressive performances on the biggest tournaments on Tour at such an early stage in their careers have inevitably drawn comparisons with the Big Three - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - and how they faired during the same period in their lives.
ATP Tour debut
Out of the Big Three, only Nadal won on his ATP Tour debut when he took down Paraguay’s Ramon Delgado as a 15-year-old in Mallorca in 2002. Following in his compatriot’s footsteps, Alcaraz too made a winning start to his Tour-level tennis but he had to do it the hard way - beating the then Top 50 player Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(2) in a three hours and 37 minutes long contest in Barcelona. As it turned out, Alcaraz, in his final tournament as a teenager, won the title in Barcelona this year.
First ATP Tour Title
While it took Nadal and Federer two and three finals respectively to lift their maiden titles on Tour, Djokovic did it in his very first attempt when he beat Chile’s Nicolas Massu 7-6(5), 6-4 in the summit clash in Amersfoort, Netherlands in 2007. Alcaraz and Rune too won their maiden singles titles on the first time of asking. In fact, Alcaraz went on to win his first five finals before Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti defeated him in the summit clash in Hamburg in July last year.
Total titles before turning 20
As strange as it sounds now, Federer, who finished his career with 103 singles titles, the second-most by anyone on the ATP Tour, only had one before turning 20. On the other hand, his two biggest rivals - Nadal and Djokovic - won 16 and 5. Alcaraz enters his 20s with nine titles to his name while Rune has four. However, out of the five, Nadal (2005 French Open) and Alcaraz (2022 US Open) are the only ones who clinched a Major in their teens.
Highest ranking achieved before turning 20
Federer - 14
Federer entered the ATP top 10 for the first time on May 20, 2002. He grabbed the number one spot in the ATP Rankings on February 2, 2004, just after winning his first Australian Open.
Nadal - 2
Nadal entered the ATP Top 10 on April 25, 2005 and stayed there for a record 912 weeks. The Spaniard became World No.1 for the first time on August 18, 2008.
Djokovic - 5
Djokovic’s entry in the ATP Top 10 happened on March 19, 2007. The Serbian, who is into his 385th week as the World No.1, grabbed the top spot for the first time on July 4, 2011, just after beating Nadal to win his maiden Wimbledon title.
Alcaraz - 1
Alcaraz is the only teenager in history to be ranked No.1 in the ATP Rankings. He achieved the feat on September 12, 2022, a day after winning the US Open. The Spaniard’s push to the top spot was also helped by the fact that Djokovic could not defend his titles last year in Australia and New York due to his Covid-19 vaccination status while he lost 2000 points despite defending his Wimbledon title since the event was stripped of ranking points post the ban on Russian and Belarusian players.
Rune - 7
Rune entered the ATP top 10 on November 7, 2022 after his title-winning run at Paris Masters during which he beat five top 10 players (Hubert Hurkacz, Andrey Rublev, Alcaraz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Djokovic).
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