Carlos Alcaraz Brushes Off Tough Loss to Rafael Nadal: 'Let's forget it'

Carlos Alcaraz grabbed three games against Rafael Nadal in their first duel

by Jovica Ilic
Carlos Alcaraz Brushes Off Tough Loss to Rafael Nadal: 'Let's forget it'
© Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal played The Netflix Slam in Las Vegas on Sunday night, with the younger Spaniard prevailing 3-6, 6-4, 14-12 after two hours. Two Majors champions gave the crowd what they wanted, with many exciting points and a thrilling enclosure.

Before the match, Carlos recalled his three official matches against Rafa, joking about wanting to forget their first clash. Three years ago, Nadal and Alcaraz met in the second round at the home Madrid Masters on the young gun's 18th birthday!

Rafa was not interested in giving Carlos any gifts on the court (he received the cake after the duel), beating a teenager 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and 16 minutes. Carlos defeated Adrian Mannarino in the first round, bageling world no.

34 in the second set and becoming the youngest player with a win in Madrid, taking the record away from Rafa himself!

Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2021© Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

However, Alcaraz could not repeat that against a four-time Caja Magica champion, suffering a stomach muscle injury in the early stages and taking only three games despite a promising start.

Nadal dropped 13 points in eight service games, suffering one break and erasing that deficit with a rock-solid performance on the return. Rafa grabbed 63% of the return points against a powerless opponent, turning them into five breaks and controlling the scoreboard.

Nadal hit 13 winners and eight unforced errors, needing nothing else after welcoming almost 30 unforced mistakes from his young opponent. Rafa handled everything in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, with Carlos struggling to show his rich talent and challenge one of the world's best players.

Rafael Nadal & Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2021© Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal defeated Carlos Alcaraz in straight sets in Madrid 2021.

Carlos made a strong start and placed three deep returns to earn a break chance in the first game, continuing where he left off against Mannarino.

The youngster sprayed a forehand mistake before Rafa closed the game with a service winner. Nadal drew Alcaraz's mistake in the second game, securing an early break and moving in front. Carlos experienced an injury in the third game, receiving a medical timeout and falling 3-0 behind when Rafa landed a volley winner.

Nadal created three break chances in the fourth game and forced Alcaraz's mistake in the extended exchange, earning a break at love and moving further in front after 24 minutes. Rafa cracked a forehand down the line winner in the fifth game, holding at love and forcing Carlos to serve to stay in the set.

Alcaraz clinched the sixth game, reducing the deficit and getting his name on the scoreboard. Rafa served for the opener at 5-1 and fired a forehand down the line winner for three set points.

Rafael Nadal & Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2021© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The more experienced player landed a service winner on the first, wrapping up the opener 6-1 in 36 minutes and gaining a boost.

Nadal broke at 30 at the beginning of the second set after Alcaraz's forehand error and held for 2-0. Carlos struggled behind the initial shot again in the third game, netting a forehand and experiencing another break. Alcaraz finally stepped in on the return in the fourth game, hitting a smash winner at the net and pulling one break back.

Rafa recovered his strokes instantly, creating three break chances in the fifth game and converting the first with a thrilling forehand down the line return winner. Firing from all cylinders, Nadal landed a backhand crosscourt winner in the sixth game and closed it with a forehand down the line winner, moving 5-1 in front and forcing Alcaraz to serve to stay in the match.

Carlos held in game seven to prolong the action, and Rafa served for the win at 5-2. The older Spaniard grabbed the eighth game with a smash winner at the net, celebrating a routine win and moving into the third round. A year later, two rivals met in the Indian Wells semi-final, with the young gun pushing the veteran to the limits.

Nadal prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 after three hours and 12 minutes in challenging conditions, advancing into the title clash. Carlos had learned a lot since their first duel, winning only four points fewer than Rafa and delivering five breaks.

Rafa responded with six return games on his tally, staying focused in the decisive moments and emerging at the top. Nadal lost serve two times in the opening set and created 17 break chances! Carlos defended 14 but got broken three times, falling 6-4 behind after 66 minutes.

Alcaraz secured a break in the ninth game of the second set, seizing the seventh break opportunity and moving 5-4 in front.

Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2021© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

He held after deuce in game ten, leveling the overall score after two hours and 20 minutes.

Rafa faced three break points at 2-2 in the final set, denying them and remaining on the positive side. Nadal delivered a crucial break at 4-3 with a volley winner, serving for the win in the next one. Rafa fired a service winner in game nine, sealing the deal and closing an epic encounter against his compatriot.

Carlos served revenge in Madrid two months later, beating the king of clay 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in two and a half hours. A year after taking only three games against Rafa, Carlos entered Madrid as one of the world's finest players, proving that at Caja Magica and lifting the trophy.

The younger Spaniard struggled with an injury in the second set, throwing it away and gathering energy for the decider. Carlos grabbed four breaks from five chances and defended six out of nine break points, becoming the youngest player with a clay-court win over Rafa.

Carlos Alcaraz Rafael Nadal