Rafael Nadal: ‘Carlos Alcaraz can beat anyone’

Rafael Nadal suffered his first clay-court loss to a teenager last week in Madrid. A few days after turning 19, Carlos Alcaraz toppled his idol 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the quarter-final to advance into the last four. Speaking about the match, Nadal praised his rival and his determination and aggressive approach. Rafa could not predict the semi-final score between Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, but he admitted the youngster is ready to beat any rival on the Tour. Alcaraz showed no sign of nerves and fired almost 40 winners against a 21-time Major winner to beat him for the first time in three encounters. In the second set, the youngster experienced an ankle injury and let it go. He started all over in the third to control the scoreboard and show Rafa the exit door. Alcaraz fired an incredible forehand down the line winner in game nine to seal the deal and find himself in the semis. On the following day, Carlos met world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and delivered a notable 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 victory in three hours and 35 minutes for a place in the final.

The encounter saw only three breaks of serve, and they pushed each other to the limits from start to finish to keep the crowd at Caja Magica on the edge of their seats. Carlos wasted an early advantage in the opener, and Novak took charge behind the initial shot to control the pace. The Serb claimed the tie break 7-5 for a massive boost and wished for more in set number two. The home favorite had no room for errors, and he kept pushing strong. The more aggressive player fended off a break chance in games nine and 11 to stay on the positive side, drawing the most from his partisan crowd. Carlos grabbed a break at 15 in the 12th game with a forehand down the line winner to force a decider and gain a massive boost. Djokovic survived three break points in the final set’s fourth game and two more at 2-3 to extend the battle.

Rafael Nadal lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Masters quarter-final.

Alcaraz fended off a break chance in game seven with a service winner, and Novak had a massive opportunity to create three break opportunities at 4-4. He missed a routine forehand, and Alcaraz held at 30 to prolong his chances. The Serb denied a match point in game ten with a service winner and closed it with another after four deuces. The encounter went into a deciding tie break, and Alcaraz moved 3-1 ahead with a backhand down the line bullet. Djokovic pulled the mini-break back with a volley winner at the net, and the Spaniard attacked first in the next one to open a 4-2 gap. Carlos generated a 5-3 lead with a good serve, and Djokovic sprayed a forehand mistake at 4-5 to face two more match points. He saved the first with a service winner, and Alcaraz seized the second with a forehand down the line winner to celebrate an epic victory and move into the final!

“I can not predict tomorrow’s result; it will be a tough match. One of the best players in history faces an in-form young player. Carlos can beat Novak; there’s no reason not to. He can not afford the downside like today in the second set. He plays with a lot of adrenaline and momentum. He is aggressive and practically unstoppable if he finds the range. He has the level to beat every player in the world, including Novak,” Rafael Nadal said.