BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Exactly 17 years ago, an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal was starting to attract the attention of the tennis world by winning the Barcelona Open and making it to the top 10 for the first time.
Carlos Alcaraz followed in the footsteps of his hero on Sunday, also winning his first Barcelona title and cracking the top 10 men’s rankings for the first time at the same age.
Alcaraz continued his impressive run by beating Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets for his third title of the season, winning the all-Spanish match 6-3, 6-2 after having made it to the final a few hours earlier in a semifinal game postponed from Saturday because of rain.
“It means a lot,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve watched this tournament since I was a kid. I always wished to play in this tournament and of course to be able to win this tournament. I’m really, really happy to be part of the Spanish history list.”
Alcaraz was guaranteed to move into the top 10 after reaching the semifinals. He will be No. 9 when the new rankings come out on Monday, making him the youngest player in the top 10 since Nadal made it after lifting his first Barcelona trophy in 2005.
Like Nadal then, Alcaraz came into the tournament as the 11th-ranked player in the world. A record 21-time Grand Slam winner, Nadal never dropped out of the top 10 since then.
The victory at the Rafa Nadal center court in Barcelona capped a long day for Alcaraz, who needed 3 hours, 39 minutes to rally past Alex de Minaur 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in their semifinal match in the morning.
The 30-year-old Carreno Busta, ranked 19th and seeking his seventh title on tour, beat Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour, 39 minutes in his semifinal Sunday.
Alcaraz broke serve twice in each set to cruise to victory in the final.
Alcaraz won titles at Rio de Janeiro in February and in Miami earlier this month. His first tour title came in Umag last year.
Rain plagued the outdoor clay-court tournament in Barcelona all week. Both semifinals were suspended tied at 2-2 in the first set on Saturday.
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