Carlos Alcaraz becomes the youngest year-end No. 1 in men’s tennis history after Rafael Nadal was eliminated from the ATP Finals.
At the age of 19 years and 214 days, US Open champion Alcaraz surpasses Lleyton Hewitt’s record to finish the year as world No. 1 at the age of 20 years and 275 days in 2001.
Alcaraz will miss 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 reason to celebrate.
The teenager has 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 jumped Alcaraz to the top of the world rankings with a win this week in Turin, but after losing 6-3 6-4 to Felix Auger-Aliassime on Tuesday and Casper Ruud winning a set against Taylor Fritz, the 36-year-old -old bowed out of the tournament.
Struggling for form since the US Open in September, Nadal fell to Auger-Aliassime in his fourth consecutive performance since 2009.
It follows a straight-sets loss to Taylor Fritz in Turin earlier this week and defeats to Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters and Frances Tiafoe at the US Open.
“I don’t think I’ve forgotten how to play tennis, how to be mentally strong enough,” Nadal told reporters on Tuesday.
“I just need to get back all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mindset that I need to be at the level that I want to be.
“I don’t know if I will reach that level. But about which I have no doubt [about] is that me [am] will die for it.”
Nadal had chances to take the lead against Auger-Aliassime, but failed to convert four break points in the first set. The Canadian moved 5-3 ahead when he broke Nadal’s serve and soon after completed the set for an early lead.
In the second set, Auger-Aliassime broke Nadal 1-1, then consolidated his lead in the next match with three aces in a row.
The world number 6 hit 15 aces during the match and then served out for the win in almost two hours.
It means Auger-Aliassime remains in contention to progress beyond the group stage at the ATP Finals, despite losing to Ruud in his opening match on Sunday.