Álex Corretja has a clear memory, as if 25 years had not passed since his victory at the Nitto ATP Finals. In that magical week of November 1998, the Spaniard beat Andre Agassi, Albert Costa, Pete Sampras and Carlos Moyà to celebrate a title that elevated his career to a new dimension.
“It’s surprising that 25 years have passed,” Corretja told ATPTour.com. “It is a title that completes a dedicated career, full of efforts and, above all, enthusiasm. It is the signature of what you have been pursuing throughout your life,” the Spaniard continued. “At 10 years old he was already training four hours to be a tennis player and at 16 he was playing Futures all over the world trying to earn ATP points. When at 24 I am able to win the ATP Finals… it is like completing 14 years of chasing a dream. “That is what I like most about the memory,” he added.
Corretja’s victory came in Hannover, on a fast indoor track and against real specialists (Agassi, Sampras…). The difficulty of the victory is also reflected by a strong statistic: only two Spaniards have won throughout the entire history of the tournament.
“The fact that it was indoors and in a difficult tournament for the Spanish, except for Orantes in 1976, makes it more special,” the Catalan recalled. “No one had ever won it and no one has yet won it again. This shows the difficulty of this tournament, which only the top eight of the year play. It shows that it is very complex. For us, in general, it did not adapt very well because we Spaniards were players who needed a lot of rhythm and more experience in tournaments,” Corretja explained. “On the other hand, I found my physical and mental fulfillment, despite it being November 29 when I won the final. “I felt very strong and very prepared.”
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That season, Corretja had won five ATP Tour titles, in addition to reaching his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros (lost to Moyà). In Hannover, however, she reached the pinnacle of her career, lifting a trophy with which she left a legacy that still endures.
“Having won it as the last Spaniard, I cannot deny that it makes me feel that it is something very unique and complicated for all of us,” said Corretja, who came back from 0-2 down against Moyà in the final to end up winning in five sets. “It’s like a hallmark. For example, Roland Garros has been won by other Spaniards. At no time do I feel happy for thinking that I have won the ATP Finals and other of my teammates have not been able to,” he added. “I don’t have a Grand Slam and many of them have achieved it, but I recognize that it makes me feel very good about my career, it makes me feel that it is the icing on the cake of many titles, Masters 1000, other tournaments also important… but the ATP Finals guarantee me for having closed a very important cycle of my career.”
“It makes me feel like I was getting a little bit of what I had dreamed of since I was little, that at some point I would touch the sky with my hands with very powerful success on a professional level,” Corretja explained. “This is a bit of the memory I have of the ATP Finals and especially of a very intense week of concentration, faith, trust and, above all, effort,” Corretja celebrated. “14 years of traveling, training, being away from your home and away from your family, and that is what rewarded me the most, winning there.”
Despite being the last Spanish champion of the tournament, Corretja is clear that Carlos Alcaraz could take over sooner rather than later.
“Carlitos is an ATP Finals profile,” Corretja warned. “He is a player who perfectly suits the big moments, the big games, matches against rivals from the Top 10, all the drama,” he continued. “Perhaps the most complex thing is the surface, which may not be the best for him. For me, it is where the rivals in the ATP Finals can do the most damage. Both on speed and on land, I think he would have more possibilities of hurting them,” he explained.
I have a feeling that he is predestined to win it on some occasion, or more than one,” Corretja predicted. “I think he is a very aggressive player who adapts very well to all surfaces. When he finds the freshness he needs to play this tournament, he will end up winning it. He is going to have many opportunities to succeed at the ATP Finals in the coming years.”