Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz met for the first time in Madrid last year. The more experienced Spaniard earned a commanding 6-1, 6-2 victory over the rival who celebrated the 18th birthday on that day. Carlos became one of the youngsters to watch since the season's restart in August 2020, claiming three Challenger titles and moving closer to a place in the top-100.
Alcaraz qualified for the Australian Open at the beginning of 2021 and became the youngest player with a Major win since 2014. A teenager reached the Marbella semi-final and scored his first Masters 1000 victory in Madrid against Adrian Mannarino.
Carlos earned a bagel in the second set and got a chance to play against his idol Rafael Nadal on his 18th birthday. The youngster could not do much against the mighty opponent, experiencing an injury in the early stages and playing way below his best.
Rafa lost serve once and turned over 60% of the return points into five breaks. Nadal hit 13 winners and eight unforced errors and took advantage of almost 30 unforced errors from an 18-year-old to race into the last 16.
Rafael Nadal honored his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz after their Madrid clash.
Carlos made a strong start in the first game and earned a break chance.
Rafa saved it and closed the game with a service winner. Nadal forced the rival's error in the second game to grab the first break before Carlos experienced that injury a few minutes later. Rafa won the third game with a volley winner and seized another break for a 4-0 advantage.
The more experienced Spaniard held at love in game five with an incredible forehand down the line winner and held at love with a service winner two games later to wrap up the opener in 36 minutes. Continuing where he left, a five-time Madrid Open champion scored two breaks at the beginning of the second set and forged a 3-0 lead before Alcaraz pulled one break back to reduce the deficit and show the fighting spirit.
In game five, Rafa placed a perfect return winner for a break at love and crossed the finish line with a smash winner at 5-2 on his third match point. Praising his young compatriot, Rafa said that Carlos has a massive potential to carry him towards the top in the upcoming years.
Nadal was not wrong, and Alcaraz is already on the verge of the top-15, still before the 19th birthday. "Carlos has massive potential. He is young, dedicated and a good guy. He already has an excellent level of tennis today, and I believe that he will be a fantastic player soon.
I wish him all the very best. As a Spanish player and Spanish tennis fan, we need someone like Carlos, and it's great to have him here," Rafael Nadal said.