Rafael Nadal: ‘Carlos is 19, and I’m 36; of course it’s a handover’

Rafael Nadal will have to wait for another year to chase the fifth Caja Magica title at home in Madrid. Nadal finished the last week’s campaign with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 loss to his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in two hours and 28 minutes. Carlos became the youngest player with a win over Rafa on clay, overpowering his idol with a rock-solid performance in sets one and three to advance into the quarter-final. It was Rafa’s first tournament after skipping six weeks due to a rib injury, fending off four match points against David Goffin but failing to repeat that against an in-form rival. Carlos saved six out of nine break points and grabbed four return games from five opportunities to control the scoreboard and remain on the title course. The youngster overpowered the veteran with 37 winners and 31 unforced errors, dictating the pace and showing his incredible skills that propelled him into the top-6. Alcaraz made an early break in the encounter’s first game and saved three break points in the next one.

Nadal seized the fourth break opportunity after the youngster’s double fault to get his name on the scoreboard and level the score at 1-1. Rafa squandered two game points in the next one and experienced the second consecutive break. Carlos served well in the remaining games and increased the advantage with the third return game at 4-2. A teenager held at love in game eight with an unreturned serve for 6-2 in 47 minutes. Rafa wasted three break chances in the second set’s second game, and Carlos injured his ankle in the next one to lose ground and receive a medical timeout.

Carlos Alcaraz defeated Rafael Nadal in three sets in Madrid.

Nadal was the only player on the court in the rest of the set, serving well and delivering breaks in games four and six to open a 5-1 gap. Rafa held at love in game seven to wrap up the set and gain a massive boost ahead of the decider. Alcaraz took a break and started all over in the final set. He brought back his A-game and left the 21-time Major winner behind. Carlos earned three break points at 2-1 with a backhand crosscourt winner and seized the first for the crucial advantage. The youngster held at 30 in game five to confirm the lead and secured game seven at 15 to open a 5-2 gap. Rafa grabbed the eighth game to prolong the action and force the rival to serve for the victory. Showing no sign of nerves, Alcaraz earned a match point with a drop shot winner in game nine and clinched it with an incredible forehand down the line winner to emerge at the top in style. 

“Carlos is 19, and I’m 36; of course it’s a handover. I congratulate him; he was a better player in several aspects, and I will have to raise my level in Rome and Paris. It’s an easy loss to digest because we knew what we could expect here in Madrid. I wish Carlos the best in the rest of the tournament,” Rafael Nadal said.