Carlos Alcaraz is set to become the youngest year-end No. 1 in men’s tennis history following Rafael Nadal’s elimination from the ATP Finals.
At 19 years and 214 days old, the US Open Alcaraz champion surpasses Lleyton Hewitt’s record of finishing the year as world No. 1 at 20 years and 275 days old in 2001.
Alcaraz misses this year’s ATP Finals in Turin, Italy as he continues to recover from an abdominal injury suffered at the Paris Masters earlier this month, but compatriot Nadal’s early exit from the tournament means he still has something to be happy about.
The teenager had a sensational year, winning five ATP titles and becoming the youngest No. 1 in men’s tennis when he won his first Grand Slam title in New York.
Nadal could have overtaken Alcaraz at the top of the world rankings with a victory in Turin this week, but after losing 6-3 6-4 to Felix Auger-Aliassime on Tuesday and Casper Ruud won a set against Taylor Fritz, the 36-year-old -old withdrew from the tournament.
Nadal has struggled for form since the US Open in September and against Auger-Aliassime fell to his fourth consecutive achievement since 2009.
This follows a straight-set loss to Taylor Fritz in Turin earlier this week and losses to Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters and Frances Tiafoe at the US Open.
“I don’t think I forgot how to play tennis, how to be strong enough mentally,” Nadal told reporters on Tuesday.
“I just need to get all that positive feeling back and all that confidence and all that strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be.
“I don’t know if I’m going to reach that level again. But what I have no doubt [about] do I [am] will die for it.
Nadal had chances to take the lead against Auger-Aliassime but failed to convert four break points in the opening set. The Canadian took a 5-3 lead when he broke Nadal’s serve and wrapped up the set soon after for an early lead.
In the second set, Auger-Aliassime broke Nadal at 1-1, then consolidated his advantage the next game with three aces in a row.
The world No. 6 hit 15 aces throughout the match and served for the win in almost two hours.
This means Auger-Aliassime remains in contention to progress beyond the group stages at the ATP Finals despite losing to Ruud in his opener on Sunday.