Ymer hails 'future of tennis' after escape from Alcaraz

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz is tipped as the next big thing
Spain's Carlos Alcaraz is tipped as the next big thing David Gray AFP
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Melbourne (AFP)

Spanish wonderkid Carlos Alcaraz departed the Australian Open with praise ringing in his ears on Thursday after an impressive Grand Slam debut.

The 17-year-old, who climbed 350 places in the rankings last year, beat Botic van de Zandschulp in round one before losing a tight tussle with Sweden's Mikael Ymer.

Ymer said Alcaraz, already likened to a young Rafael Nadal, had the potential to be one of the sport's top players after his hard-fought 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) win.

"I think he is the big possibility to be the future of our sport," said Ymer, the 22-year-old world number 95.

"I think he will be not only a good tennis player, great tennis player, but one of these players that the kids are really going to look up to and have as a big role model."

Alcaraz, who started playing aged four and has been working with Spanish great Juan Carlos Ferrero, said he would learn from the defeat.

"It's a tough day for me. I don't want to lose, never," he said. "I learn out of this match, I didn't manage the nerves.

"I lost control of my serve, and I think for the next tournament I will try to be focused all the time, don't complain, and I think I have to do things better when things are not going in a good way."

Alcaraz was barely inside the top 500 at the start of last season, but has raced to 141 and is now charging towards the top 100.

He won three titles on clay in 2020 on the second-level Challenger Tour and was voted the ATP's Newcomer of the Year.

He burnished his credentials by upsetting top seed David Goffin at last week's Great Ocean Road Open, before his 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Van de Zandschulp in the Australian Open first round.

"He has intensity, he has the passion. I mean, he has the shots," said Nadal, after practising with the youngster last week.

"He has all the ingredients to become a great champion. It's all about how much you are able to improve during the next couple of years."