A teenager Carlos Alcaraz is on the verge of the top-10 a month before turning 19. Super talented Spaniard has been one of the best players this year, winning two titles and writing history books. Carlos became the third 18-year-old player with a Masters 1000 title in Miami, adding 1000 points to his tally and standing second in the ATP Race behind a great compatriot Rafael Nadal.
Two Spaniards have met twice so far, and their first clash came in Madrid last year. They met at Caja Magica on Carlos' 18th birthday, and Rafa scored a dominant 6-1, 6-2 victory against an injured opponent. Alcaraz could not play at his best due to an injury in the early stages, and Nadal was not ready for any birthday gifts on the court, dominating on serve and return to sail into the third round.
Rafa lost serve once and turned over 60% of the return points into five breaks. Carlos earned a break chance in the encounter's opening game and wasted it before Rafa closed the game with a service winner. Nadal forced the rival's error in the second game to grab the first break before Alcaraz experienced that injury a few minutes later.
The youngster took a medical timeout and lost momentum. 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 with a service winner at 5-1 to wrap up the opener in 36 minutes.
Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz met for the first time in Madrid last year.
The five-time Madrid Open champion scored two breaks at the beginning of the second set before Alcaraz pulled one break back to reduce the deficit and show his fighting spirit.
Leaving that game behind him, Rafa placed a perfect return winner for a break at love in game five and crossed the finish line with a smash winner at 5-2 on his third match point. After the match, the youngster admitted that he did not talk with his idol too much before the duel.
Still, Rafa wished him all the best at the net when they finished. "It was amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafael Nadal in front of the home crowd here in Madrid. It would have been better if I could win, but I enjoyed it anyway.
I have learned a lot from him, and this match will help me grow as a player. I have to learn how to manage big points and deal with rivals from the top. If I get a chance to play more matches like this one against Rafa, I should grow up faster and develop my skills.
Rafa and I did not say anything before the match. He wished me a happy birthday and encouraged me to continue working hard when we finished," Carlos Alcaraz said.