Remember the date: 5 May 2021 will go down in the history of Spanish tennis. In the clash between master and pretender to the throne, the incomparable present and the hope of the future, Rafa Nadal stamped his authority to claim a win over Carlos Alcaraz, 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and 17 minutes.
The five-time champion opened his eighteenth appearance at the #MMOPEN, an all-time record at the tournament (equalled only by Fernando Verdasco), by increasing his haul of wins at the Madrid Masters 1000 to 53.
“It’s a very special day”, explained the world No. 2, who wanted to thank the fans for their support. “You don’t know how much we’ve missed it… Without you we lose a fundamental part of what sport is. We’re all very happy and very grateful that you’re here supporting our sport”.
Alcaraz became an adult today and the Caja Mágica crowd sang happy birthday to him just before the match got underway. Celebrating his birthday on the centre court of Spain’s biggest tennis event in the presence of a legend like Nadal will be a birthday present that is difficult to beat.
A win would have been the cherry on the cake for the Murcia native, but the best player of all time on clay was in no mood for an upset. Nadal was leading the first set 2-0, 30-15 when his opponent felt a twinge in his abdominal muscles and asked to see a physio. However, it was nothing more than a scare and he was able to continue playing against the unstoppable Mallorcan.
With the scoreboard reading 1-6, 0-3, Alcaraz found his rhythm and managed to reduce the deficit on the return after some rallies that the crowds showered with applause. Nadal, though, immediately put his foot down and accelerated towards the third round. “Carlos has huge potential and all he needs is a little time”, explained Nadal, who was full of praise for the Murcia native.
“To me, the most important thing in life, more than any success, is being a good person. I think that when you have the right values, the necessary humility, I think it’s easier to handle the stages you have to go through. When you have the humility to be clear that you have to improve, even when you’re very successful like Carlos from a young age, I think he has the capacity to train every day with the hope and motivation to improve something”.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will be 35 in June, wanted to wish his young opponent the best. “He has a fantastic future ahead of him. Let’s hope it is fulfilled…. We need him!”.
Did you know…?
Nadal now has 19 consecutive wins over Spanish players.