Carlos Alcaraz's Fearful Debut: Facing Rafael Nadal in Madrid 2021

Carlos Alcaraz played his first match against Rafael Nadal on his 18th birthday

by Jovica Ilic
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Carlos Alcaraz's Fearful Debut: Facing Rafael Nadal in Madrid 2021
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

World no. 3 Carlos Alcaraz will seek his third consecutive Madrid Masters title. The young Spaniard entered the draw of the home Masters 1000 event despite dealing with a right arm injury, missing Monte Carlo and Barcelona and hoping for a better run in Caja Magica.

Three years ago, Alcaraz played his first match against his idol Rafael Nadal, with two Spaniards battling at Caja Magica on the young gun's 18th birthday! Carlos could not overcome the fear and emotions of playing Rafa in front of the home fans, suffering a 6-1, 6-2 loss in an hour and 17 minutes.

Alcaraz experienced an injury in the early stages and could not perform at his best.

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

He played a couple of fine games in the second set but ended his campaign in the second round.

Previously, Carlos took away Rafa's Madrid Masters record, beating Adrian Mannarino in the first round and becoming the youngest player with a win in the Spanish capital! He could not repeat that against a four-time Caja Magica champion, struggling on serve and return.

Nadal suffered one break and turned over 60% of the return points into five return games, controlling the scoreboard and sailing into the last 16.

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

Carlos Alcaraz admitted he was scared while facing Rafael Nadal for the first time.

Rafa landed 13 winners and eight unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and welcoming almost 30 unforced mistakes from the young gun.

The birthday boy made a reliable start against the legend, placing deep returns in the opening game of the encounter and creating a break chance. Nadal denied it and closed the game with a service winner, avoiding an early setback.

Rafa drew Carlos' mistake in the second game, securing a break before the young gun got injured and asked for a medical timeout. The more experienced player landed a volley winner in the third game, confirming the break and securing another a few minutes later for a 4-0 lead.

Nadal fired a booming forehand down the line winner in the fifth game, holding at love and moving closer to a bagel.

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

Carlos stepped in and closed the sixth game at 15, getting his name on the scoreboard and reducing the deficit.

Nadal served for the set at 5-1 and landed a service winner, holding at love and clinching the opener in 36 minutes after a rock-solid performance. Rafa kept the same pace at the beginning of the second set, earning two breaks and forging a 6-1, 3-0 advantage in no time.

Showing the fighting spirit, Carlos pulled one break back and reduced the deficit to 3-1. However, Nadal quickly recovered and placed a return winner for a break at love in game five, moving 4-1 in front and closer to the finish line.

Rafa painted a forehand down the line winner in the sixth game, forcing his rival to serve to stay in the match. Carlos held in game seven, prolonging the battle before Rafa sealed the deal with a smash winner on serve at 5-2, seizing the third match point and sending the young gun packing.

Alcaraz received a birthday cake on the court after the match, accompanied by Nadal and the tournament director, Feliciano Lopez.

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

"Facing Rafa for the first time in Madrid 2021 was so difficult.

Honestly, I was very scared. I could not bring my best tennis due to Rafa's presence and the atmosphere in front of the home fans. It was unbelievable," Carlos Alcaraz said.

Carlos Alcaraz Rafael Nadal
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