When Carlos Alcaraz plays Facundo Bagnis in the second round of the Miami Open presented by Itau, it will be a clash of two players who have followed completely different career paths.
Last year, Alcaraz became the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. On the other hand, Bagnis reached his first ATP Tour final aged 31 two years ago in Santiago.
“Not all the players have the opportunity to be amazingly good like him in the beginning of our career. I don’t have his talent, I don’t have different things that he does. He is the first player of the world,” Bagnis told ATPTour.com. “I made my career with a lot of work, sacrifice. Every time I managed to give everything of myself for trying to get to a semi-final at 31 years old or any final or results maybe at any Grand Slams. For sure they are so different, our careers.”
Few have seen the World No. 1’s improvement as closely as Bagnis. The Argentine first played Alcaraz at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Cordenons three years ago. The Spaniard was a 17-year-old not yet in the Top 200.
“I remember that I didn’t play so well… the match was tight, but in the moment that I finished I said I had the opportunity to beat him,” Bagnis said. “One year after, I said okay this time was a little bit farther, that level. In the moment that we arranged practice at different tournaments, every tournament you can feel how he improved step by step.
“I remember in Cordenons that I said his serve was not so good. Right now I cannot say the same thing. He has so much talent. His speed and he plays amazing shots in all the court. Maybe Daniil, when I played against him at Roland Garros, his game is maybe a little bit more defensive or even Andy [Murray is too]. I think Carlos is a combination between Nadal and Federer, maybe.”
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
The pair played in the final of an ATP Challenger Tour event in 2021 before competing in their first tour-level match against one another in Umag last year. Alcaraz has won on all three occasions. But according to Bagnis, the teen is not nearly the same player today.
“I remember that his body was totally different in that time. In Cordenons he was a little bit more skinny or maybe did not have so much power. The speed was a little bit different,” Bagnis said. “Now I see him so strong, so quick. His potential is so high. He surprised me the last time that I saw him, I think it was in the beginning of last year. One of the big changes was in his body.”
It has not all been about physical development, though.
“I think the key for him is the way that he competes on the court. His attitude, it’s amazing. Every time he’s celebrating with his bench. Every time he shows the best possible attitude. For me that is one of the best, toughest things in tennis,” Bagnis said. “That he can do it at only 19 years is amazing. Another part is his tennis is magic, it’s amazing. But his attitude and mentality is so strong, also.
“I think Carlos is most similar to a killer. You cannot breathe. He’s attacking you all the time. He has so many shots and tricks.”
Bagnis knows it will be difficult to secure his first Top 10 win against Alcaraz, who is the defending champion and fresh off a triumph at Indian Wells. But the lefty will give it his best shot.
“We will see the best of him because he’s the No. 1 and he won the last tournament. He came in with amazing confidence and also he won this tournament last year,” Bagnis said.
“I think the most important [thing] is to try to not be the sparring [partner] of the guy who is celebrated because you are playing against Alcaraz. I think I must focus and give my 100 per cent, try to put him in discomfort for sure and try to give the best of me, even playing with the best player in the world.”