Madrid: Continuing his impressive rise, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz beat his countryman and World No 4 Rafael Nadal to reach the Madrid Open semifinal, here on Friday.
The 19-year-old Spaniard withstood a trademark Nadal fightback and registered a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 win in an absorbing two-hour, 29-minute quarterfinal encounter of the ATP Masters 1000 event in the Spanish capital.
The win elevates Alcaraz to No 6 in the ATP Live Rankings, although Andrey Rublev can reclaim that slot if he beats Stefanos Tsitsipas, later in the night. Alcaraz will now face a semifinal clash with another ATP Tour legend, World No 1 Novak Djokovic, in a maiden ATP Head to Head meeting between the two.
“It means a lot to me. All the hard work that I put in every day pays off today. To beat Rafa, to beat the best player in history on clay, it means a lot to me,” said Alcaraz after the match.
Breaking into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings and clinching a maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami in March have been the massive achievements of Alcaraz’s stellar 2022 season so far, and a first victory over Nadal represents another milestone for the 2021 Next Gen ATP Finals champion. He displayed maturity and youthful exuberance in equal measure to overcome Nadal, becoming the first teenager to defeat the 35-year-old on clay.
Alcaraz was untouchable in the opening set, striking 19 winners as Nadal struggled to match the quality and intensity of his opponent’s game. Although Nadal immediately broke back after dropping serve in the first game of the match, a combination of huge baseline hitting and clever drop shots earned Alcaraz two further breaks as he charged to the first set in Manolo Santana Stadium.
Despite his opponent’s strong start, there was no panic from 36-time Masters 1000 champion Nadal, whose return game began to fire as he sensed a drop in Alcaraz’s level.
Alcaraz recovered 0/40 to hold for 1-1 in the second set before a slip in the next game left him requiring treatment for an ankle injury. Nadal’s improved hitting won him 20 of the final 22 points of the set to level the match as Alcaraz struggled to regain his early momentum.
Nadal appeared to have the upper hand as he chased a 12th semi-final appearance in Madrid, but his younger opponent showcased levels of resilience that the 21-time Grand Slam champion would be proud of. A re-energised Alcaraz struck the ball with authority as he clinched the only break of the deciding set in the fourth game to reach the semi-finals in Madrid for the first time.