The 19-year-old has made waves through the ATP Tour this season, most notably becoming the youngest player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and the first to do so at the same clay-court tournament en route to winning the Madrid Open in May, the onus was on Alcaraz to deliver on the biggest stage of his career yet at Roland-Garros.
His fine displays on the red surface so far this year, which also includes clay-court tournament victories in the Barcelona and Rio Opens, resulted in Alcaraz heading to Paris as the second favourite in the tennis odds — behind only the clay-court king himself Nadal.
But he certainly wasn’t able to fly in under the radar as he did in Paris 12 months ago, reaching the third round of Roland-Garros before being beaten in straight sets by German Jan-Lennard Struff. This time, all eyes were on the Spaniard as he tried to replicate Nadal’s maiden French Open success as a fresh-faced, 19-year-old.
That level of expectation obviously comes with a lot of pressure, and was already weight on his shoulders to deliver his maiden Grand Slam with so little experience — and at such a young age. Add to that the fact Alcaraz had to play his first-round match on Court Philippe-Chatrier, the biggest stage of all at Roland-Garros, and who would have blamed him for crumbling.
But the 19-year-old was cool, calm and collected as he dispatched world number 142 Juan Ignacio Londero in straight sets, winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in just one hour and 50 mins. His fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, ranked 44th, admittedly posed a bigger threat in round two, and he nearly sent his compatriot packing.
This time taking centre stage on Court Simonne-Mathieu, the third largest on offer at Roland-Garros, Alcaraz took the first set 6-1. But Ramos-Vinolas fought back to lead two sets to one before the 19-year-old won the nail-biting fourth-set — needing a play-off to stay in the game and level the scores at two sets a piece.
Ramos-Vinolas stormed to a 3-0 lead in the fifth and final set and the odds were now firmly in his favour to see out the match and gain a shock passage to the third round. But stirring down the barrel of defeat, Alcaraz picked himself up off the dirt and came back to win 6-4 to secure a third-round match-up with 27th seed Sebastian Korda, who he previously lost to in the second round of the Monte Carlos Masters earlier this year.
“I’m still young, but I would say a pretty experienced player now. I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in Grand Slams,” Alcaraz said after defeating his countryman.
“Physically and mentally, I’m strong. I think I’m ready to play these kinds of matches in these situations and these tournaments.”
It is an incredible mentality to have at just 19, and even though Alcaraz couldn’t go on to win the French Open this year, losing to Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals, you can guarantee that he will have plenty more opportunities to win Roland-Garros and the other three Grand Slam titles over the course of the next 15 or 16 years.