Carlos Alcaraz has become the youngest ever ATP year-end World No. 1, beating Aussie Lleyton Hewitt’s 21-year record.
Alcaraz became the world No. 1 on September 12 when he won the US Open in a four-set victory over fellow young gun Casper Ruud in what was essentially a shootout for the top position on the ATP rankings.
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The 19-year-old is the first teenager to be ranked World No. 1, and is now the first to end the year as the world’s best since the start of the ATP rankings in 1973.
The result was sealed when Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the ATP Finals — he was the only player who could have taken the spot from his countryman but lost matches to both Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
However, he wasn’t eliminated from the tournament until Ruud took the first set off Taylor Fritz in their round robin meeting. Ruud eventually won the match 6-3 4-6 7-6.
Nadal needed to win the tournament to steal the world No. 1 ranking from Alcaraz and needed Ruud to lose in straight sets to keep his hopes alive.
Alcaraz wasn’t even at the event, having suffered an abdominal muscle injury in early November, which essentially ended his season.
Alcaraz’s rapid rise to be the world’s best has taken another record of Hewitt, who finished the 2001 season as the World No. 1.
Hewitt’s mark was set at 20 years, 275 days, while Alcaraz has lowered it by more than a year to 19 years, 214 days, which will be his age on December 5 after the final ATP Challenger Tour event of the season.
Incredibly, Alcaraz is the first player outside the Big Four of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray to hold the position since Andy Roddick in 2003.
Nadal dramatically said he is “going to die” trying to return to the level of tennis that saw him capture a record 22 Grand Slam singles titles after his hopes of a first ever ATP Finals title and becoming year end world number one were all but extinguished on Tuesday.
Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open this year but was forced to pull out of the Wimbledon semi-final after an abdominal tear saw Aussie Nick Kyrgios straight into the final.
But after bowing out of the ATP Finals in Turin, Nadal, who had played just three matches since the US Open in September, said he will come back to form.
“I mean, I don’t think I forget how to play tennis, how to be strong enough mentally,” Nadal said.
“I just need to recover all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be.
“And I don’t know if I am going to reach that level again. But what I don’t have any doubt, that I going to die for it.”
However, Nadal was as gracious in defeat as every, praising Alcaraz for his achievement.
“Just well done for Carlos in this case,” Nadal said.
“Happy for him. Big achievement for him. Well done. Great news for our sport in Spain. He deserved it after a great season.”
— with AFP
Originally published as Carlos Alcaraz crushes Lleyton Hewitt record to become youngest year-end World No. 1