ATP Madrid: Rafael Nadal eases past birthday boy Carlos Alcaraz

World no. 2 and the four-time Caja Magica champion Rafael Nadal earned his 53rd Madrid Open victory, beating his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and 16 minutes. A teenager celebrates the 18th birthday today, and Nadal wasn’t ready to gift him the triumph, dominating from start to finish and using the fact that his rival suffered a stomach muscle injury already in the opening games. Rafa lost serve once while he was already miles in front and converted over 60% of the return points won into five breaks that carried him home and into the next round, facing Alexei Popyrin on Jannik Sinner on Thursday. Nadal had 13 winners and eight unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and drawing almost 30 unforced errors from an 18-year-old. The more experienced player left his rival miles behind in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, sailing towards the finish line and the 12th victory of the season.

Rafael Nadal defeated Carlos Alcaraz in straight sets in Madrid. 

Carlos made a strong start and placed three deep returns to earn a break chance in the first game, wasting it following a loose forehand and allowing Rafa to close the game with a service winner. Nadal forced the opponent’s error in the second game to secure the first break and open a 2-0 lead before Carlos suffered that injury in the next game that took the rhythm away from him. He received the medical timeout and lost the third game when Rafa placed a volley winner before suffering a break at love that pushed the more experienced player 4-0 ahead.

Nadal held at love in game five with an incredible forehand down the line winner, and Alcaraz held at 15 a few minutes later to get his name on the scoreboard. Serving at 5-1, Rafa held at love to bring the opener home with a service winner after 36 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two. Continuing where he left, Nadal grabbed two breaks at the beginning of the second set to forge a 3-0 advantage before Carlos pulled one break back to reduce the deficit. Leaving that game behind him, Rafa placed a perfect return winner for a break at love in game five and sealed the deal with a smash winner at 5-2 on his third match point.

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