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‘IT MEANS A LOT’ – CARLOS ALCARAZ DELIGHTED WITH WIN OVER ‘BEST PLAYER IN HISTORY ON CLAY’ RAFAEL NADAL

Carlos Alcaraz came up against the greatest clay-court player of all time in his compatriot Rafael Nadal, and overcame an injury scare to win 6-2 1-6 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open to set up a meeting with Novak Djokovic. It was Alcaraz’s first ever win over the 21-time Grand Slam winner as he goes about making his own impact on the game of tennis.

 

 

Carlos Alcaraz underlined his growing reputation and his emergence as a major contender for the French Open title with a statement quarter-final triumph over Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open.
The 19-year-old starlet battled through a mid-match ankle injury to claim a first win in three meetings with the King of Clay courtesy of 6-2 1-6 6-3 success in two hours and 28 minutes.
It is Alcaraz’s fifth straight victory against a top-10 opponent and sets up a mouthwatering last-four showdown with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

 

 

 

 

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of what could be a watershed moment in his career, Alcaraz said: “It means a lot to me. All the hard work I put in every day has paid off.
TO BEAT RAFA – THE BEST PLAYER IN HISTORY ON CLAY – IT MEANS A LOT.
“The fall in the second set affected me a lot. When I lost the set I went to the bathroom and thought I would be able to come back to do my best and try everything. I wanted to fight until the last ball and that was the key.”
Back in 2007, David Nalbandian famously beat both Nadal and Djokovic (as well as Roger Federer) in Madrid and Alcaraz joked he would turn to the Argentine for advice ahead of the semi-final. Asked if he was confident he could complete a rare double, he said: “Of course, of course. I’m focusing on tomorrow. I will text Nalbandian on how he did it (laughs). I will fight and let’s see what happens.”

 

 

In a clash billed as a battle of the generations due to an age gap of 16 years and 11 months that is the largest in a Masters 1000 quarter-final since the series started in 1990, it was the young pretender who made the stronger start as he went in search of his 26th tour win of the season.

Nadal paid the price for a sloppy opening service game when he inexplicably allowed a hopeful lob on the stretch to drop in before netting a routine forehand. However, the 21-time Grand Slam champion broke straight back when Alcaraz double faulted on the 35-year-old’s fourth opportunity.

 

 

The No. 7 seed did not allow the disappointment to disrupt him and he took advantage of an ill-timed double fault from the five-time champion to break before consolidating for a 3-1 lead.
Nadal was struggling to keep hold of his serve and it was the 19-year-old who continually dictated the points with venomous strikes off both wings and a drop shot his opponent just could not read. The world No. 4 had a half chance at 3-2 down but could not make it count and Alcaraz hit a purple patch to reel off three games in a row and serve out an opener, in which he hit 19 winners, after 49 absorbing minutes.

 

 

The Australian Open champion, who was featuring in a record-extending 99th Masters 1000 quarter-final, needed to dig deep to stop the rot and mustered a big hold before teeing up triple break point. The suggestion of a switch in momentum was there but Alcaraz played clutch tennis with a series of bewitching volleys under pressure to dig out a brave hold.
Nadal knew he needed to make significant improvements on his own serve and claimed arguably his best game of the match when an unfortunate moment led to a lengthy delay. Alcaraz took a tumble trying to reach what proved to be a game-winning forehand and twisted his right ankle.

 

 

The youngster returned after a medical time-out with heavy strapping and looked hampered as he immediately coughed up an error-strewn break to love. Another plot-twist followed when a spectator fell ill in the crowd, leading to another delay before Nadal backed up the break to lead 4-1.
Alcaraz was no longer the blur of speed, power and precision from the opener and Nadal broke again before serving out to love to force the decider.
There was a real unknown element to how the final set would play out and it was perhaps fitting that a contest packed with such drama had another twist.

 

 

Nadal was the favourite at this juncture but Alcaraz began to move much more freely and unloaded a stunning forehand on the run at 1-1 and 15-30 down to turn the game – and the match – in his favour.

 

 

The world No. 9 continued to ride the euphoria of the turnaround into the next game and left the Manolo Santana Stadium crowd stunned as he broke to love before consolidating to lead 4-2.
Nadal had no answer as Alcaraz found levels akin to his Set 1 performance and the youngster held his nerve to serve out the match and become the first teenager to defeat the Mallorcan on a clay court.

 

 

 

It was only the second loss of 2022 for Nadal, who won’t be too disheartened by his run in the Spanish capital having only just returned from a broken rib that has hampered his preparations ahead of his bid for an unprecedented 14th title at Roland Garros.

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