Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been the dominant figures on the Tour in the past 15 years, alongside Roger Federer. Beating Rafa and Novak at the same event has never been easy, and only 11 players had achieved that ahead of last week's Madrid Masters.
David Nalbandian earned that feat in Madrid 2007 as the first player. The other names on the list are David Ferrer, Andy Roddick, Nikolay Davydenko, Robin Soderling, Ivan Ljubicic, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev.
Nalbandian, Roddick, Davydenko and Federer toppled Rafa and Novak on back-to-back days, but no one managed to defeat them at the clay-court event! 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz changed all that in Madrid last week, outplaying two legends in the quarter-final and semi-final to write history books.
Alcaraz became the youngest player with victories over Nadal and Djokovic, the fifth who toppled them in consecutive days and the first who achieved that on clay! Carlos' first triumph over Rafa came in front of the home fans, with the youngster overpowering his idol 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in two hours and 28 minutes.
It was Nadal's first tournament after six weeks and a rib injury, and he did not perform at his best. Alcaraz took full advantage of that and overcame the king of clay in sets one and three to emerge at the top and set the semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic.
Carlos saved six out of nine break points and grabbed four return games from five opportunities to control the scoreboard in sets he won to remain on the title course. The youngster fired 37 winners and 31 unforced errors, dictating the pace and advancing into the semis.
Alcaraz met Djokovic for the first time and secured a notable 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 triumph in three hours and 35 minutes of outstanding tennis. Novak and Carlos kept the crowd on the edge of their seats following a great battle that produced only two breaks of serve.
Carlos Alcaraz wrote history at Madrid Masters.
The youngster fended off five out of six break points and stayed calm in the second set's closing stages to force a decider and extend his chances. The final set offered no breaks of serve, and Carlos prevailed in the tie break to set the title clash against Alexander Zverev.
Novak experienced an early setback and trailed 4-2 in the opener before pulling the break back in game eight. The Serb had the advantage in his games, delivering one good hold after another and taking the tie break 7-5 for a massive boost.
With no room for errors, Alcaraz erased a break chance with a powerful serve at 4-4 in set number two and another at 5-5 to remain competitive. Carlos pushed strong on the return in the 12th game and grabbed a break at 15 with a forehand down the line winner to force a decider and gain a massive boost.
Djokovic survived three break points in the final set's fourth game and two more at 2-3 to extend the drama. Carlos fended off a break chance in game seven with a service winner, and Novak had a massive opportunity to create three break chances at 4-4.
He missed a routine forehand, and Alcaraz held at 30 for an enormous boost. The Serb denied a match point in game ten with a service winner and closed it with another after four deuces. Alcaraz moved 3-1 ahead in the tie break with a backhand down the line bullet, and Djokovic pulled the mini-break back with a volley winner at the net.
In the sixth point, the Spaniard pulled the trigger to open a 4-2 gap, and the Serb claimed the next one with a service winner. Carlos generated a 5-3 lead with a good serve, and Novak stayed in contention with a deep return in the following point.
Djokovic sprayed a forehand mistake at 4-5 to face two more match points. He saved the first with a service winner, and Carlos seized the second with a forehand down the line winner to celebrate an epic victory and advance into the final!