‘It means a lot’ – Carlos Alcaraz delighted with win over ‘greatest clay-court player in history’ Rafael Nadal

Carlos Alcaraz highlighted his growing reputation and emergence as a major French Open title contender with a quarter-final triumph over Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open.

The 19-year-old starlet battled a mid-game ankle injury to earn a first victory in three meetings for the King of Clay with a 6-2 1-6 6-3 win in two hours and 28 minutes.

It’s Alcaraz’s fifth straight win against a top-10 opponent and sets up a mouth-watering last-four showdown with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

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Speaking immediately after what could be a defining moment in his career, Alcaraz said: “It means a lot to me. All the hard work I put in every day has paid off.

Beating Rafa – the best ever player on clay – 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 that I could come back to do my best and try everything. I wanted to fight until to the last ball and that was the key.

In 2007, David Nalbandian 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 pull off a rare double, he said: “Of course, of course. I’m focusing on tomorrow. I’ll text Nalbandian to let him know how he’s doing it. did (laughs) I’m going to fight and let’s see what happens.

In a clash billed as a battle of generations due to a 16-year-11-month age gap that is the biggest in a Masters 1000 quarter-final since the series began in 1990, it’s the young contender who got off to the best start as he set off in search of his 26th circuit victory of the season.

Nadal paid the price for a sloppy opening play when he inexplicably dropped a hopeful lob on the stretch before scoring a routine forehand. However, the 21-time Grand Slam champion was given a break when Alcaraz double-faulted on the 35-year-old’s fourth chance.

The No.7 seed didn’t let disappointment get in the way and he capitalized on an untimely double fault from the five-time champion to break before consolidating for a 3-1 lead.

Nadal struggled to keep serve and it was the 19-year-old who continually dictated the points with venomous strikes down both wings and a drop shot his opponent simply couldn’t read. The world No. 4 had a half chance at 3-2 but couldn’t make it count and Alcaraz hit a purple patch to reel off three in a row and serve a game opener, in which he hit 19 winners , after 49 absorbents. minutes.

The Australian Open champion, competing in a record 99th Masters 1000 quarter-final, had to dig deep to stop the rot and mustered a big hold before scoring a triple break point. The suggestion of a change of momentum was there, but Alcaraz played tennis with a series of spellbinding volleys under pressure to dig in a brave hold.

Nadal knew he needed to make significant improvements on his own serve and won arguably his best game of the game when an unfortunate moment led to a long delay. Alcaraz took a fall trying to land what turned out to be a forehand winner and sprained his right ankle.

The youngster returned after a medical timeout with heavy straps and looked embarrassed as he immediately spat out an error-ridden break at love. Another twist followed when a spectator fell ill in the crowd, leading to another delay before Nadal pulled back to lead 4-1.

Alcaraz was no longer the blur of the speed, power and precision of the opener and Nadal broke again before serving to like to force the decider.

There was a real unknown element to how the final set would unfold and it was perhaps fitting that a contest filled with such drama had another twist.

Nadal was the favorite at this stage, but Alcaraz started to move much more freely and unloaded a superb forehand on the run at 1-1 and 15-30 to turn the game – and the game – in their favour.

The world No.9 continued to ride the euphoria of the turnaround in the following game and left the Manolo Santana Stadium crowd stunned as he broke love before consolidating to lead 4-2.

Nadal had no answer as Alcaraz found similar levels to his performance in Set 1 and the youngster kept his composure to serve the match and become the first teenager to defeat the Mallorcan on a clay court.

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

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