Rafael Nadal suffered his first clay-court loss to the teenager last week in Madrid. A few days after his 19th birthday, Carlos Alcaraz defeated his idol 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. Speaking of the match, Nadal praised his rival and his determination and aggressiveness.
Rafa could not predict the outcome of the semi-final between Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, but admitted that the youngster is ready to beat any opponent on the Tour. Alcaraz showed no sign of nervousness as he fired nearly 40 winners against a 21-time Major winner to beat him for the first time in three meetings.
In the second set, the youngster suffered an ankle injury and was let go. He started again in the third to control the scoreboard and show Rafa the exit door. Alcaraz unleashed an incredible forehand winner in game nine to seal the deal and find themselves in the semifinals.
The following day, Carlos took on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and pulled off a remarkable 6-7 7-5 7-6 win in three hours and 35 minutes to earn a spot in the final. The match, in which there were only three service breaks, was a litmus test for the Caja Mágica public.
Carlos squandered an early lead early on, and Novak took it upon himself to control the pace after the initial hit. The Serb claimed the tie break 7-5 for a huge boost and wished for more in the second set. The local favorite had no room for error, and he continued to press hard.
The more aggressive player fended off a break chance in games nine and 11 to stay on the positive side, drawing the most of his supporter crowd.
Ruud opens up on Nadal
World No. 10 Casper Ruud has hailed Rafael Nadal for being an inspiration both on and off the court.
"I try to learn from him every time I get to practice with him," Ruud said. "On the court and off the court, I think he's a very good example of how an athlete should behave, the values he has." Ruud said that he has gotten to know Nadal better after spending time at his structure.
"I've got to know him a little bit more when I'm in the structure," he continued. "It's always fun to be there. It's motivating to be around him because you're talking about a guy who has won everything there is to win and still plays today like it's the first time he's playing on the center court.
It's just incredible to see how he's been able to keep the motivation and the intensity for already so many years."