Next season, the Mutua Madrid Open will celebrate its twentieth edition, but first we wanted to take a look back at the best moments given to us by the men’s competition this year. From Alexander Zverev claiming his second crown in the Caja Mágica to the historical battle of the generations between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz.
Monday 3 May 2021 will always be a significant date in the career of Carlos Alcaraz. Two days before becoming an adult, the Murcia native picked up his first win at an ATP Masters 1000 against Adrian Mannarino, 6-4, 6-0 in one hour and 11 minutes. He had played in a tournament of the same category a few months earlier in Miami, but it was the clay of Madrid that witnessed him claim his first victory.
In addition, on the day of his 18th birthday, he was able to celebrate by fulfilling a childhood dream. In the second round he played Rafael Nadal. The most experienced player at the tournament and its five-time champion won 6-1, 6-2 in a match in which the man from Murcia was hampered by injury problems. At the end of the match, the song Happy Birthday rang out in the Manolo Santana Stadium in what was a fiesta for Spanish tennis.
Zverev makes it two
Only one man outside the Big 4 had ever lifted the trophy in the Caja Mágica, since the tournament moved to spring and the European clay season in 2009. In 2018, the German added his name to an elite winners’ circle that also includes Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Zverev became one of five players in the history of the event to claim a second title. He did so with an impeccable week in which he managed to beat Kei Nishikori in his opener, Daniel Evans in the last sixteen, Nadal in the quarters and Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals without losing a single set. In the decider he came back against Matteo Berrettini to win 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3 and pick up his second title in Madrid.
Nadal and Manuela
One of the big stories thrown up by the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open was that of Manuela Navarro, a 95-year-old tennis fan, and Rafael Nadal. Before the match, her grandson sent this message on Twitter: “Today my grandma, at 95 years of age, will fulfil a dream by seeing you play in person. She is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and she told me that before she forgets what you and tennis mean to her, she wanted to see you play in person. I hope she enjoys this day as much as I am enjoying it”
At 15:00, Manuela was on the court ready to follow Nadal vs. Zverev live in the Manolo Santana Stadium. But that was not the end of the story, after the clash, the Manacor native greeted an already-delighted Manuela in person.
Granollers, first Spaniard to win the doubles
Marcel Granollers became the first Spaniard in the history of the tournament to win the doubles title. He did so alongside Horacio Zeballos, beating the duo that finished 2021 as the world No. 1 pair, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic. It was also the first time a home player had reached the men’s doubles final at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Even the ladies tournament had not produced a home winner. Although Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez reached the final in 2014 and 2015, they were unable to put the icing on the cake in the decider on either occasion. Granollers finally ended the drought this year.
Santana visits Nadal in the locker room
After one hour and 44 minutes, Nadal brought his 2021 Mutua Madrid Open campaign to an end in the quarter-finals, where he fell to Zverev 6-4, 6-4. A familiar face awaited him in the locker room to console him and offer his support, as he always had done, in both good times and bad. Manolo Santana was there to greet him, producing an image that will live on in the history of the tournament.