WATCH: Alcaraz ended the 2021 season by winning the ATP Next Gen Finals

ATP: Carlos Alcaraz

Much as modern men’s tennis has been defined by the 30+ set, the rankings have skewed younger in the post-pandemic landscape. At the forefront is top-ranked teenager Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal’s right-handed heir.

The Spaniards had their first meeting in Madrid last May, and though the 18-year-old endured a quick defeat, he exponentially improved in the months since, reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in New York. How fast has he risen? A year ago Alcaraz qualified to make his Australian Open main-draw debut; in 2022, he’ll likely be seeded.

“Well, I’m 18 years old, so there is no time to feel the pressure right now,” he said after defeating Jannik Sinner at the Rolex Paris Masters. “I know what I have to play, and when I’m on the court, just play my game and trying to enjoy the moment.”

Coached by former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz stormed to his first ATP title in Umag and had three Top 10 wins as of November—none of which, claims Ferrero, has gone to his head.

“He’s the same guy I met when he was 15,” he told “Sometimes I get surprised, like how he handled winning a tournament. [When he got] off court he was very happy, but three or four hours later it was super normal and he was focused on what he has to do...It’s not surprising him at all that he’s doing all these things.”

The more Alcaraz achieves, the less he surprises us, too.


Tauson reached three WTA finals in 2021, winning two titles to earn a Top 50 debut.

Tauson reached three WTA finals in 2021, winning two titles to earn a Top 50 debut.

WTA: Clara Tauson

Insiders agree: Tauson is tennis’ next big thing.

To the outsiders: the Dane, who turned 19 in December, has shown her best tennis at the 250 level, winning two titles already. Few doubt her ability to translate that heavy hitting against the game’s best, and at bigger tournaments.

“On the ITF level, a lot of the best players are good counterpunchers who get me to play a lot of shots,” Tauson explained in Lyon, where she qualified and blitzed the field without dropping a set. “Here, the players are going for their shots much more. They play more like how I try to play.

“I definitely still have a lot of respect for the WTA players, but by now, I feel more comfortable and don’t come on the court scared, the way I may have used to feel.”

Tauson trains at the Justine Henin Academy, boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of scores and stats—coach Olivier Jeunehomme calls her the “Wikipedia of tennis”—and while she may evoke visual similarities to countrywoman Caroline Wozniacki, her aggressive game is a far cry from the former world No. 1’s counterpunching style.

“I think my game is the kind that can help me get to the top level,” she says confidently—which she proved by cracking the Top 50 from a season start of No. 152. A former Australian Open junior champion, Tauson will make the last of her Grand Slam main-draw debuts in Melbourne in January. Insiders the world over will be watching for how fast she becomes a household name.