The apprentice upsets the master

Antonio Arenas Men's Tennis, Mutua News, Tennis

It was a hotly anticipated final and the atmosphere in the Manolo Santana Stadium on Thursday lived up to the expectations. The Caja Mágica’s centre court was packed to the rafters, with 12,500 spectators in the stands to witness Carlos Alcaraz win an all- Spanish clash against Rafael Nadal and stamp his ticket to the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.

In their third meeting in the last year, the Murcia native notched up his first win in their head-to-head. The Mallorcan claimed his two last year in the Caja Mágica and earlier this season in Indian Wells. Alcaraz won in three sets (6-2, 1-6, 6-3), in two hours and 28 minutes, to reach the penultimate round of a Masters 1000 for the third time in the four he has played this season.

Having beaten Nadal, on Saturday, the ATP No. 9 will be playing Novak Djokovic for a place in the #MMOPEN final. The match, which takes place no earlier than four O’clock in the afternoon, will be the first time the two have met on tour. The leader of the world ranking beat Polish player Hubert Hurkacz in two sets (6-3, 6-4).

The match with the biggest age difference between two opponents in a Masters 1000 quarter-final started frenetically. An exchange of service breaks left the 19-year-old Alcaraz with a 3-1 lead. Nadal (35) tried to hold strong in face of the demandingly-long opening three games – twenty-two minutes – but he eventually conceded another break (5-2) before losing the set in 47 minutes.

The start of the second set saw the El Palmar-born player take an unfortunate tumble and twist his ankle. The #MMOPEN’s third seed managed to break his opponent to take the lead (3-1) and closed out the set with five games on the trot. Alcaraz’s movement was not noticeably affected in a set that lasted 53 minutes due to the medical timeout.

A visit to the locker room before the third set seemed to inject some intensity back into the rallies. As a result, this year’s champion in Rio, Miami and Barcelona tipped the balance in his favour with a break in game four that he was able to consolidate (4-1). Alcaraz then managed to hold his serve until sealing victory number 26 in 2022.

Alcaraz could become the third Spanish player to compete in an #MMOPEN final. The first was his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2003, when he beat the Chilean Nicolás Massú (6-3, 6-4, 6-3). Nadal has played in eight, of which he won five (2005, 2010, 2013-14 & 2017) and lost just three (2009, 2011 & 2015), making him the most successful player on the Madrid clay.