Carlos Alcaraz defeated Rafael Nadal for the first time
One of the most promising tennis players in the world, Carlos Alcaraz beat his stellar compatriot Rafael Nadal for the first time. The king of the dirt retreated in front of his heir apparent in Madrid
The Grundy Masters in Madrid brought together almost all the strongest representatives of men’s tennis, who are now in the ranks. Only Daniil Medvedev is missing. We should remind you that after Miami the Russian decided to take care of his health. He had a surgery to remove a hernia and is now recovering.
A couple of weeks ago Daniel began training on the court, and on hard court. But now he’s on the court. And now we received a message from Medvedev’s camp that he has requested a wild-card for the ATP-250 tournament in Geneva, which precedes Roland Garros. That means the best Russian tennis player really wants to play his best tennis in Paris.
In Madrid all the attention is focused on Djokovic and Nadal. The Serb is gradually gaining form. At his home tournament in Belgrade he managed to reach the final, but lost there to the Russian Andrey Rublev. Nadal, on the other hand, is just starting his grass-court season and Madrid is first on his schedule. Both of these big-name tennis players have won more than once in the Spanish capital: Djokovic three times and Nadal five times. And when the schedule came out, many pundits, journalists and fans were looking forward to the semifinals between Djokovic and Nadal. But they had yet to reach it.
However, Djokovic’s path to the semifinals in Madrid was, one might say, easier. The Serb, as the high seed, missed the first round, and in the second round he was challenged by client Gaël Monfils, who had lost all 17 of his previous meetings. The Frenchman did not break the “tradition” and lost in the next match (3-6, 2-6), thanks to which he set an ATP record for the highest score in head-to-head encounters in which one of the opponents could not win anything – 18-0. Djokovic’s opponent, Great Britain’s Andy Murray, did not appear in the third round, citing illness. In the quarter-finals, Novak confidently dealt with a Pole, Hubert Hurkacz – 6:3, 6:4.
Rafael Nadal, who missed a month and a half of the Indian Wells finals due to injury, where he lost to American Taylor Fritz, missed the Masters in Miami and Monte Carlo and the ATP-500 in Barcelona. The Spaniard won his opening match in Madrid against Miomir Ketsmanovic in two sets, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), but had a tough time in the third round against Belgian qualifier David Goffen. Rafa missed two match points in the second set, then saved four match points on the tie-break in the third set and still he overpowered his opponent – 6:3, 5:7, 7:6 (11:9) in 3 hours and 13 minutes. Note that Nadal found time during the tournament to hit the ball first before the championship match of his favorite soccer club “Real Madrid”.
Nadal’s opponent for the quarterfinals, to the delight of the Spanish public, was Carlos Alcaraz, who has been called nothing less than the heir to the King of the Ground. Carlos was 19 on the day of his quarter-final match. By that age he had achieved almost the same results and successes as Nadal had by the age of 19. There is no more promising tennis player in the world right now than Alcaraz! He had already broken into the top 10 rankings, winning the Masters in Miami and then winning one of Nadal’s most successful tournaments in Barcelona. In addition, the young Spaniard had a solid collection of eight victories over reigning top-10 tennis players before Madrid.
Nadal and Alcaraz had met twice before and on both occasions the more experienced Rafa won 6-1, 6-2 in Madrid-2021 and 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in the Indian Wells-2022 semi-finals. The more curious were Rafael’s words before their third match: “I think he is better than me now. He has a good dynamic and he’s in a better psychological state. He’s younger and has extra energy. I can clearly see who will have the advantage in the match.” Alcaraz responded, “Rafa is the best player in the world on the ground, even if he says I’m the favorite, that he’s not ready. You should always consider Rafa the favourite here. He’s won the title five times.
Nadal was wary of his young, hotly built opponent for good reason. Alcaraz raised the tempo on his draws and got his break right away. Rafa immediately hung on to the broken serve and with an unusually hard effort made it 1-1.
But he kept his balance for a short time. In the third game again he caught Nadal at fault. It was obvious that Rafa didn’t have enough time to recover after his hard match with Goffen the day before, his younger opponent overpowered him and got one more break, 2-1. After that the players confidently held their serves, but in the end of the game Alcaraz took one more elimination game and then the whole set – 6:2 in 48 minutes.
Nadal came out in the second set more determined. He confidently took his game and then almost got a break. But then, with the score at 1-1, in one of the draws Alcaraz unsuccessfully reached for the ball, fell and twisted his right ankle. Doctors treated the young Spaniard in transition. The broadcast directors showed the viewers an impressive abrasion. After that, Alcaraz’s game fell apart. He couldn’t serve or receive. He had trouble moving around the court or couldn’t concentrate. He could have been affected by another break to help one of the spectators in the stands. In the end Rafael won the 2nd set 6-1.
In the intermission between sets Carlos went to the locker room, changed his clothes and came out on the court pretty fresh. He confidently took the first game on his serve and then served again smoothly winning it back to 2-1. And after the break he broke Nadal’s serve for nil, 3-1. No matter how hard Rafa tried to win back, he failed to come back: 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in 2 hours and 17 minutes.
So just celebrated his 19th birthday, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz inflicted a painful defeat on five-time champion of the “Masters” in Madrid, Rafael Nadal. The young tennis player made it to the semifinals, preventing the 59th Nadal – Djokovic duel. Let’s see how Alcaraz will show himself against the 1st racket of the world and the reigning champion of Roland Garros.