Carlos Alcaraz believes he is up there with the world's best players after falling to the 21-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal in three sets in his maiden Indian Wells semi-final.
The 18-year-old has been widely tipped by fellow players and coaches to become a multiple Grand Slam winner in the future, but he was unable to overcome his childhood idol in a three hour and 12 minute battle in the California desert on Saturday.
Alcaraz, who lost the match 6-4 4-6 6-3, admitted he was slightly nervous playing against his 35-year-old compatriot in only the pair's second meeting on the ATP tour, but feels he will compete with the world's best at the biggest tournaments this year.
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"The first set I was playing against Rafa and against me. I was always thinking that I'm playing against Rafa," he told reporters.
"In the second set and the third set [I was thinking], 'Okay, I'm playing against Rafa, but I'm going to show my level, I'm going to give my 100 per cent that I [could] be able to beat him or [come] close to beating him.'"
He added: "[It was my] second time against Rafa. I feel like I'm part of that level. I am part of these kind of players, I think I'm going to play against Rafa or the best players a lot this year."
The wind drastically picked up in the second set and it had an almighty impact on the match as towels and rubbish flew across the court.
Alcaraz, who took the second set - which included a 20 minute game at 4-4 - to force a decider, said it was almost not a tennis match at that point.
“In the second set, [there was] a lot of wind. We survived,” Alcaraz said. "I think it wasn't a tennis match in the second set."
Although Alcaraz could not handle Nadal's relentless pressure in the third set decider, the world No. 19 believes he has developed a lot since his breakout year in 2021.
"I think last year [there] were a lot of first times for me. I mean, first win in a Grand Slam, first Masters 1000. A lot of first times,” he said.
"Now I played more matches against Top 10 players, big matches in big stadiums. I think now I'm more mature. I know how to control myself, the emotions.
"Now I know [this] is my level. [I] know how to play against these kind of players. That's the most important, [to] know your level and what you have to do."
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