In the traditional Davis Cup photo, taken less than two weeks ago, Spain’s Roberto Baustista Agut and Carlos Alcaraz stood side by side, smiling in victory. They had just vanquished Romania in the first round of qualifying, with Bautista Agut winning two singles matches and Alcaraz one.
At 33, Bautista Agut is the veteran of the team and Alcaraz, still only 18, is very much the new kid on the block. But that doesn’t mean the muscular teenager is always going to follow the lead of his senior teammate. On Monday, they met for the first time in an ATP Tour event and the emphatic result was both sobering and startling.
Alcaraz won 6-2, 6-0 in a match that required only 65 minutes. Bautista Agut’s serve was broken five times out of nine and Alcaraz had an astounding edge in winners: 29 to 1. Nineteen of those came from the forehand side. In all, Alcaraz won 57 of 87 points, a remarkable differential for a match played between the Nos. 15th- and 19th- ranked players in the world.
Believe it or not, Alcaraz is the one ranked lower, but you get the idea that it won’t be for long, for this wasn’t just a one-sided victory, it had an element of style, too.
Alcaraz called it “one of my best performances” in a full match. “I trained with Roberto a lot,” he continued. “I knew that Roberto is playing really well. I mean, he got the title in Dubai.”
Next up is something of a surprise. No. 26 seed Gael Monfils stunned No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.“Gael is playing very, very well,” Alcaraz said. “I mean, he’s a really tough player. He has good speed. He has great shots as well. It’s going to be a really fun match.”
After breaking Bautista Agut to open the match, Alcaraz weathered the predictable storm on his own serve, a long and twisting affair. Finally, he ended it by sprinting to net and hitting an exquisite drop shot so silky, so sublime, it might have evaporated in the desert heat. The final stroke of the match was a searing ace that left Bautista Agut to trudge to net and acknowledge his defeat.
Alcaraz is now 10-1 to start the season – and the only player outside Rafel Nadal to have at least 10 wins and one loss or fewer. Bautista Agut, the champion this year in Doha, is a credible 15-5. Alcaraz became the youngest ATP Tour 500 champion last month in Rio de Janeiro, besting Diego Schwartzman in the final. A year ago, he made his Indian Wells debut, losing to Andy Murray in the second round.