On Wednesday, the young gun Carlos Alcaraz celebrated his 18th birthday in front of the home fans at Caja Magica, facing his idol Rafael Nadal in the second round. Nadal defeated Alcaraz 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and 17 minutes in the clash between the present and the future of the Spanish and world’s tennis, with Carlos standing as one of the players to beat in the following decade. Alcaraz conquered the first Futures title in 2019 at 16 and improved his game under the guidance of a former world no. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero to become the youngster to watch. When the season restarted last August, Carlos was there to show his full potential, winning three Challenger crowns and moving closer to the top-100. Alcaraz qualified for the Australian Open this January and became the youngest player with a Major win in Melbourne since 2014. A teenager reached the Marbella semi-final and scored his first Masters 1000 victory in Madrid on Monday against Adrian Mannarino.
Carlos earned a bagel in the second set and got a chance to play against his idol Rafael Nadal. The youngster couldn’t do much against the mighty opponent, experiencing an injury in the early stages and playing way below his best. Rafa lost serve once and turned over 60% of the return points won into five breaks that pushed him through. Carlos made a strong start in the first game and earned a break chance, wasting it and allowing Rafa to close the game with a service winner. Nadal forced the rival’s error in the second game to grab the first break before Alcaraz experienced that injury a few minutes later, taking a medical timeout and losing momentum.
Carlos Alcaraz spoke about his Madrid Open match against Rafael Nadal.
Rafa won the third game with a volley winner and seized another break for a 4-0 advantage. The more experienced Spaniard held at love with a service winner at 5-1 to wrap up the opener in 36 minutes. The five-time Madrid Open champion scored two breaks at the beginning of the second set before Alcaraz pulled one break back to reduce the deficit and show the fighting spirit. Leaving that game behind him, Rafa placed a perfect return winner for a break at love in game five and crossed the finish line with a smash winner at 5-2 on his third match point. Carlos said that they didn’t talk much before the match, revealing that Rafa wished him all the best at the net when they finished.
“It was amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafael Nadal in front of the home crowd here in Madrid. It would have been better if I could win, but I enjoyed it anyway. I have learned a lot from him, and this match will help me grow as a player. I have to learn how to manage big points and deal with the rivals from the top. If I get a chance to play more matches like this one against Rafa, I should grow up faster and develop my skills. I’m thrilled to spend my birthday like this. Rafa and I didn’t say anything before the match. When we finished, he wished me a happy birthday and encouraged me to continue working hard,” Carlos Alcaraz said.