Carlos Alcaraz is a precocious young talent who has always been the younger opponent in every matchup he has played in his professional career.
But as he charts to play his 293rd match on the pro circuit on Saturday at the Australian Open, he'll be the higher-ranked player and the older player in the match. His opponent will be Chinese teenager Shang Juncheng, who has created history for the second year in a row.
Shang, who announced himself as the newest kid on the block last year, became the first man from mainland China to win a singles match at the Australian Open last season. And this year, he hit a new milestone after beating India's Sumit Nagal in four sets to advance into the third round.
While his contemporaries, Zhizhen Zhang and Yibing Wu, have been the benchmark for Chinese players excelling at the top tier of men's tennis, it is 18-year-old Shang who has upstaged them both on the biggest stage and stands within one win from headlining the second week of a Grand Slam.
Being in his late teens, Shang playing an older opponent is customary. He will turn 19 next month. But Alcaraz, it is the first time in his career that he will embrace the role of the elder statesman.
To put into context his remarkable rise, the youngest opponent he has faced so far is his rival, Holger Rune, who was born six days earlier than him. So technically, Alcaraz has not played an opponent who was born later than May 5th, 2003, which is his birth date.
Alcaraz is currently the only man born after 1990 to hold multiple Grand Slams, having won the US Open in 2022 as a teenager and the Wimbledon Championships last year in a thrilling five-set win over Novak Djokovic in the final.