Carlos Alcaraz finally bested his idol, Rafael Nadal, on a tennis court at Madrid Open.
A year after winning just three games against Nadal in the same tournament, and then being ousted from Indian Wells by his countryman, Alcaraz defeated Nadal 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to break the egg on their ATP head-to-head record which now stands at 2-1 in Nadal’s favor.
Alcaraz had to withstand a trademark Nadal fightback and a nasty second-set tumble on the Madrid clay to prevail in an absorbing two-hour, 29-minute encounter.
He displayed a perfect blend of maturity and youthful exuberance to overcome Nadal, becoming the first teenager to defeat the 35-year-old on clay.
When the preceding hype gave way to the action in the Spanish capital, it was the teenager who upset the master.
Nadal, still getting familiar with the rigors of tennis after an injury layoff, had no answer to Alcaraz in the opening set.
Alcaraz struck 19 winners to 3 as Nadal struggled to match the quality and intensity of his opponent’s game.
Although Nadal immediately broke back after dropping serve in the first game of the match, a combination of blistering baseline hitting with clever drop shots sprinkled in earned Alcaraz two further breaks as he charged to a one-set lead.
The 36-time Masters 1000 champion Nadal, showed no nerves as his return game started to find its mark as he sensed a drop in Alcaraz’s level.
Alcaraz recovered 0/40 to hold for 1-1 in the second set before a slip in the next game left him requiring treatment for an ankle injury.
Nadal’s improved hitting secured 20 of the final 22 points of the set to level the match as Alcaraz struggled to regain his early momentum.
The 21-time major winner appeared to have the upper hand as he chased a 12th semi-final appearance in Madrid, but his younger opponent showcased levels of resilience that any neutral would be proud of.
A reenergized Alcaraz struck the ball with authority as he clinched the only break of the deciding set in the fourth game to reach the semi-finals in Madrid for the first time.
The win at Madrid Open takes Alcaraz to his third Masters 1000 semi-final and extends his winning streak against Top 10 opponents to five.
Breaking into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, clinching a maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami and now a win over Nadal all represent a stellar 2022 for the teenager.
The Spaniard also reached No. 6 in the ATP Live Rankings and he now faces a semi-final clash with another ATP Tour legend, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, in a maiden ATP Head2Head meeting between the two.
Djokovic, still looking for a title this season, swatted aside Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals.