As the Spanish duo continue their struggle for the coveted position of world number one, Carlos Alcaraz has rejected the notion that he views Rafael Nadal as an “enemy.”
The tennis sensation opened up about his relationship with his idol Nadal off the court as he grew accustomed to the title of top-ranked player in men’s tennis.
After winning the US Open in September, the 19-year-old became the sport’s youngest male player to receive the honour. He has yet to fully embrace his newfound status.
Despite losing in the Swiss Indoors in Basel and failing to win the Astana Open in Kazakhstan, he appears to be on track to finish 2022 as the player with the highest ATP ranking.
Nadal, who has not played a match since the Laver Cup following the birth of his first child in October, is currently ranked second ahead of Daniil Medvedvev, the previous world No 1 who was replaced by Alcaraz.
“I don’t see it that way,” Alcaraz told Eurosport when asked if he’s in a fight with Nadal for the No 1 spot.
“It’s true, Rafa is fighting for the No 1. Some players have the same goal – to be No. 1, so I need to do my best… outside the court we [Rafa and I] are colleagues, at least it’s the way I see it.
“Rafa is not my enemy. I say hello, I don’t see that competition. With the rest of the players, it’s the same. Beyond that relationship, I’ll try to keep being No 1.”
Alcaraz, who won his first Grand Slam after beating Casper Ruud at Flushing Meadows in September, has a long way to go before he can think about emulating Nadal’s incredible haul of 22 Majors, with an insurmountable 14 titles alone at the French Open.
The Murcia-born tennis prodigy, who lost to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semifinals of the Swiss Indoors title match in Basel, is content just to be the top-ranked player in the sport.
He says he is living out a childhood dream and reminds his detractors that he is “still a kid.”
“It is an incredible feeling, waking up as No. 1, the US Open winner. It’s a dream come true,” he added. “I am enjoying this moment so far. I keep working, my life is still the same, I’m still the same kid, same player. Just keep practising, keep improving.”
Alcaraz has a bye into the second round and is playing this week at the Paris Masters after overcoming injury concerns with a captivating match against Yoshihito Nishioka on Wednesday.
In order to maintain his lead over Nadal in the rankings race—who is still capable of dethroning him as No. 1 before the year is out—he will need to put on a respectable performance.