Data | Can teenager Carlos Alcaraz challenge the ageing champions in 2022 French Open?
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Data | Can teenager Carlos Alcaraz challenge the ageing champions in 2022 French Open?


The last time an under-21 player reached the French Open final was Nadal in 2007. Between 2009 and 2018, no such player reached the round of 16

The last time an under-21 player reached the French Open final was Nadal in 2007. Between 2009 and 2018, no such player reached the round of 16

Since 2003, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 80% of all the Grand Slam titles. For more than a decade now, no male tennis player aged under 21 years has won a Grand Slam. But such wins were frequent earlier, with 24 instances between 1970 and 2010. On Sunday, teenager Carlos Alcaraz won a clay court tournament by defeating 13-time French Open winner Nadal in the quarters on Friday and current numero uno Djokovic in the semi finals a day later. He turned 19 last Thursday. With the 2022 edition of Roland Garros less than 10 days away, will the only teenger ranked within the top 40 currently be the game changer in men’s tennis?

Ageing winners

The chart depicts the age of male Grand Slam winners in the Open Era. The higher the circle, the older the winner. Due to the dominance of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer in the last decade, the age of Grand Slam champions has been on an increasing trend. The last under-21 champion came in 2009. It was in 2006 that we last saw a teenager win the Slam

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No mean task

Djokovic has lost 17% of his career matches. The loss % reduces to 15% when only opponents aged under 21 are considered and dips to 12.5% for matches since 2018. Nadal has lost 17.2% of his career matches. The loss % reduces to 11.5% when only clay courts are considered and dips to 9.5% for matches since 2018 against under-21 players. So Alzaraz’s wins against these two players were not an everyday affair

Breaking into the top 10

The table lists the age of select players when they first broke into the top 10 ATP tour rankings. Alcaraz broke into the top 10 at an age similar to when Nadal did

Under 21 in the French Open

The heat map shows the number of French Open matches involving at least one under-21 player in each season. The darker the colour the more the number of matches involving at least one under-21 player. The last time an under-21 player reached the French Open final was Nadal in 2007. Between 2010 and 2018, no under-21 player reached the round of 16. Since then, there has been a turnaround though none of them has managed to reach the semi-finals

Source: Tennis abstract

Also read: Alcaraz graduates from up-and-comer to French Open threat



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