Carlos Alcaraz has picked up the pieces from his heartbreak US Open loss to Novak Djokovic, with the Spaniard flying on Sunday to Beijing to debut in next week’s ATP 500 event.

The 20-year-old who lost the top ranking to his Serb rival thanks to a four-set loss in this month’s New York final could start to claw back with a solid showing in his first match in China.

The youngster came of age during the COVID pause in which China was shut down, with Tour tournaments only resuming there last week after a three-year shutdown.

Alcaraz will get a baptism of fire at the oddly scheduled Beijing event which only begins play on Thursday as the ATP tinkers with scheduling in a major way.

The object is to give breathing space to a bloated 12-day run of the ensuing Shanghai Masters, formerly completed in eight days.

The new plans with expanded draws have already drawn fire from players, who simply fear exhaustion and burnout.

Alcaraz, despite his young age, could be one of them after it took him a fortnight or more to recover from his Flushing Meadows thrashing.

As a result, he  as he skipped last week’s Davis Cup – host Spain was unceremoniously eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the team event.  

With current No. 1 Djokovic not planning to play until November at Paris Bercy – more burnout? – AlcarazĀ has a chance to overhaul the Serb and take over leadership in the season points race for the Finals in Turin from November 12.