Carlos Alcaraz was on the brink of interrupting Rafael Nadal's perfect start to the 2022 season on Saturday night at the BNP Paribas Open. Despite the result, the 18-year-old from Murcia can leave the tournament with his head held high.
The #NextGenATP star admitted to getting a nervous start to the match, before going blow for blow against one of the greatest players in history. "During the first set I was competing against Rafa and myself. I always had in my head that I was playing against Rafa," Alcaraz acknowledged.
"In the second and third set [I thought]: 'Okay, I'm playing against Rafa, but I'm going to try to show my level. I'm going to give 100% to try to beat him or come close to defeating him." Alcaraz kept his promise. It is common to observe how Nadal pushes the will of his rivals to the limit, especially that of those newcomers to the circuit.
However, the seeded No. 4 had to work hard, battling for three hours and 12 minutes before reaching the final in the California desert. Despite everything, the match was decided in a handful of points from the final set. Alcaraz showed a maturity well above his 18 years.
On court he didn't just meet Nadal's opposition, he found an additional adversary: the wind. In the middle of the second round, the wind increased significantly, causing towels or objects from the stands to fly onto the track.
Peter Bodo pays tribute to Nadal
Tennis writer Peter Bodo has lavished praise on Rafael Nadal for how he handled himself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bodo hailed the Spaniard as a "wonderful human being" and remarked that his public response was "spot on" and a stark contrast to how Novak Djokovic went about things.
"If you believe in karma, then you look at Rafael Nadal and [you'll see] how, unlike Novak Djokovic, everything he said and did during the pandemic from the earliest days onward was spot on," Bodo said. "It was absolutely considerate and absolutely putting the global health crisis at the top of the menu.
He has been great and a wonderful human being, it seems. There's such a thing as karma and it has helped him navigate all this stuff and steer clear of the controversies. For Rafael Nadal to moderate the amount of competition he engages in [with the foot injury] and not be able to practice as much as he normally would, it has been a problem in the past," Bodo said. "But now, he has clearly adjusted. His results are better."