As we reveal this year's edition of The 21 & Under Club, we'd like to call your attention to Team Luke Hope for Minds, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports families with children who have suffered an acquired brain injury. Headed by former Texas Tech tennis coach Tim Siegel—whose son, Luke, suffered severe head and chest trauma from a golf cart accident which resulted in an anoxic brain injury—Team Luke Hope for Minds has lost numerous fundraising opportunities throughout 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn more about the organization, and for information on how to donate, go to teamlukehopeforminds.org
ATP Rank: No. 318
What he's done since last summer: Went 14-1 in ITF matches to begin 2020; won match against 41st-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas at ATP Rio
Sixteen-year-old Carlos Alcaraz was up well past his bedtime as the clock struck 3 a.m. in Rio this February, but the Spanish youngster had more important things to worry about: he was deep in a battle with tour veteran Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
After more than three-and-a-half hours of play, Alcaraz, who is coached by former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, closed out his first-ever ATP match victory, and with it became the youngest player to win a match on tour since 2013—and the youngest Spaniard to do so since Rafael Nadal in 2002.
“Rio was an incredible and unforgettable week for me. To be able to learn from the best players in the world was an experience that I will never forget,” Alcaraz says through an interpreter.
He adds, with a smile: “I haven’t stayed up past 3 a.m. since then.”
Alcarez’s victory over the world No. 41 created instant headlines, but for the introspective teen, now 17, it provided a possible glimpse into the future. It was his first match against a Top 100 opponent; Alcaraz says he’d like to get his own ranking into the double digits within the next two years.
A 6’1” right-hander, Alcaraz received plenty of “next Rafa” attention that week in Rio, but Ferrero, who has known Alcaraz for three years now, says he plays more like Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.
“They like to be aggressive from the baseline and they can go to the net to finish the point,” Ferrero told atptour.com. “He likes to play on hard courts and he loves to play on grass. He loves to finish points at the net, too.”
Nike clothes, Babolat racquet, heavy top spin: remind you of anyone? (Getty Images)
Tennis isn’t the only sport on grass Alcaraz enjoys. He likes to golf, often with Ferrero. Sounds like another hyper-competitive Spaniard.
“I haven’t talked a lot with Rafa, but he’s my idol because of his character, attitude and the passion he has for tennis,” says Alcaraz.
“It’s incredible to be able to have [Ferrero] by my side because he can contribute a lot of things that others can’t. For example, since he’s lived a lot of difficult moments on court, he can give me advice on what’s best or worse to do during these situations.”
Alcaraz won 14 of his first 15 matches in 2020, all at the ITF World Tennis Tour $15K level. In 2019, he was 18–9 in a mix of ATP Challenger and ITF events, earning his first rankings points and ending the year at No. 491. He’s currently No. 318.
While the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on his progression, Alcaraz says he’s motivated by the success of Spanish players who have come before him. His week in the spotlight in Rio makes him want to “keep training and improving the things that my team and I need to improve.”
What else would he like to improve?
“My golf game… and I want to reach a very good English level,” Alcaraz adds, with absolutely nothing lost in translation.
The Class of 2020 is now on TENNIS.com and Baseline.
Monday, July 27: Sofia Kenin | Monday, July 27: Elena Rybakina | Monday, July 27: Alex de Minaur, Dayana Yastremska, Casper Ruud | Tuesday, July 28: Stefanos Tsitsipas | Tuesday, July 28: Thiago Seyboth Wild | Wednesday, July 29: Amanda Anisimova | Wednesday, July 29: Brandon Nakashima | Thursday, July 30: Coco Gauff | Thursday, July 30: Caty McNally | Thursday, July 30: Jannik Sinner, Iga Swiatek | Friday, July 31: Felix Auger-Aliassime | Friday, July 31: Carlos Alcaraz | Saturday, August 1: Denis Shapovalov | Saturday, August 1: J.J. Wolf | Sunday, August 2: Bianca Andreescu | Sunday, August 2: Leylah Fernandez | Sunday, August 2: Marketa Vondrousova, Miomir Kecmanovic