At 19 years, 4 months and 6 days, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz has just written a new page in world tennis. After working hard throughout the tournament, the child from Murcia won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open this Sunday against Casper Ruud. At the same time, he becomes the youngest world number 1 in history. The culmination of a season that saw him win five tournaments, including two Masters 1000 (Madrid and Miami). And the opportunity to (re) discover who are the last ten youngest number ones in history.
Lleyton Hewitt, a long reign
The previous youngest world No. 1 in history was Australian. In 2001, Lleyton Hewitt, aged 20 years, 8 months and 26 days, took the lead in the ATP rankings in November. The Adelaide native secured his way to the throne with a victory in the group stage at the Masters against his compatriot Patrick Rafter (7-5, 6-2). A few days later, he lifted the trophy by beating Sébastien Grosjean in the final, the culmination of a season that saw him win a total of six titles, including his first Grand Slam triumph at the US Open. It will only lose its place as No. 1 after Roland-Garros… 2003.
Marat Safin, the Blood Champion
If he clashed with his outbursts, regaled with his strokes of genius, Marat Safin also marked the history of his sport by becoming one of the earliest No. 1s. At only 20 years, 9 months and 24 days, the Russian took the world number one spot after his triumph at Bercy ahead of Mark Philippoussis in November 2000. That year, the 1.93m tall Russian won no less than seven titles. He notably pulverizes Pete Sampras in the final of the US Open (6-4, 6-3, 6-3), winning his first Grand Slam title on this occasion. It will occupy the rank of n°1 for two weeks in 2000, then seven weeks during the first months of 2001.
John McEnroe, the youngest American
One evening in March 1980, at just 21 years old, the American John McEnroe, crowned with a coronation in Memphis by beating his compatriot Jimmy Connors in the final, took the lead in the world rankings. Much appreciated for his style and technique of play, the young player won nine titles that year, including the US Open, the first of the seven Grand Slam titles he would win in his career. This is insufficient to prevent Björn Borg from finishing the 1980 season number 1. From 1981 to 1984, McEnroe will however know this honor.
Andy Roddick remained 13 weeks at the top of the ranking. (N. Luttiau/The Team)
On November 3, 2003, Andy Roddick at the age of 21 years and 2 months reached first place in the world after reaching the semi-finals at Bercy. It’s the culmination of a magnificent season for the Nebraska native. During the summer, he chained the successes at the Masters 1000 of Canada, that of Cincinnati and at the US Open. In the final at Flushing Meadows, he beat his biggest rival for the No. 1 spot, Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero. He will remain at the top of the hierarchy for thirteen weeks before being dethroned by Roger Federer.
Björn Borg, the hard worker
In 1977, the perfectionist Björn Borg was rewarded. After winning Wimbledon for the second time in his career, the Swede manages, in the space of a very short week, to dislodge Jimmy Connors from the world No. 1 spot. He was then 21 years, 2 months and 17 days old. That year, the player with the blindfold won twelve tournaments. However, he will have to wait until 1979 to taste the joys of being at the top of the ATP rankings.
Björn Borg at Wimbledon in 1977. (G. Cranham/Presse Sports)
Jim Courier, a historic year
On February 10, 1992, Jim Courier took the world No. 1 crown, aged 21 and over 5 months. Just winner of the Australian Open, beating Stefan Edberg in the final, the American knows the consecration in front of his public thanks to a victory in the semi-finals of the San Francisco tournament against his compatriot Derrick Rostagno. That same year, Courier won his second Roland-Garros. In total, he will retain his rank as world tennis boss for 58 weeks during his career.
Pete Sampras, flawless longevity
It was in 1993, at the age of 21 years and 8 months, that Pete Sampras obtained the number 1 spot. At that time, the American and his compatriot Jim Courier were neck and neck for this so desired place. But by dominating Brad Gilbert (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) during the final of the Japan Open in Tokyo, “Pistol Pete” reached his dream. He will finish six seasons in a row ranked world No. 1 and will end his career in 2002, crowned with 14 Grand Slam titles, an absolute record at the time.
Jimmy Connors, the unbeatable
In 1974, Jimmy Connors had a perfect season. The American is untouchable, nothing can resist him and he grabs everything in his path. At 21 years, 10 months and 27 days, the left-hander logically takes the place of world No. 1 during the summer. That year, the American won 94 matches out of 98 played, lifted 15 trophies (including the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open when he was deprived of Roland-Garros for having participated in exhibitions in the USA). He finished the season n°1, just like in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978, only releasing his scepter in April 1979 to Björn Borg.
Rafael Nadal, three decades of success
August 2008: in Beijing, Rafael Nadal adorned himself with Olympic gold. Even before the start of the tournament, the Spaniard knew that he was going to become world number 1 after these Olympics. Aged 22 years, 2 months and 15 days, the left-hander succeeds Roger Federer, whom he ridiculed that year in the Roland-Garros final and whom he unbolted to win his first Wimbledon. Nadal will manage to become number 1 over three different decades. In 2022, he even had the opportunity to return to the throne at the US Open. It is finally to his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz that this honor returns, this Monday.