The big showdown between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz didn’t quite live up to the hype in terms of drama and tennis, but the youngster Alcaraz proved why he is indeed the heir apparant.
Alcaraz pulled the upset knockout out Nadal 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
Nadal, who played over three hours yesterday in a bruising match against David Goffin, looked weary early on as the spritely Alcaraz danced around the court cracking winners. After a close first 30 minutes, Alcaraz pulled away.
But in the second, the courts were watered and Alcaraz stumbled badly on the clay, though was ok after treatment. A medical issue in the crowd also halted play and those things together seemed to unravel Alcaraz.
Nadal took full advantage and cruised to force a decider.
Alcaraz would get his groove back and found the range again, and after an early break, it was all the 19-year-old would need to earn his first win over the great Nadal.
“It means a lot to me,” said Alcaraz who was crushed by Nadal in Madrid a year ago. “All the hard work that I put in every day pays off today. To beat Rafa, to beat the best player in history on clay, it means a lot to me.”
He admitted the early issues in the second got to him.
“It affected me a lot,” said the Spaniard. “When I lost the second set, I thought that I was able to come back, to do my best, try everything on court, fight until the last ball. It was the key.”
After six weeks off the court, Nadal was realistic in press.
“The reading of the tournament is I have played three matches and that I came here with hardly any preparation, with no preparation. This is the reality,” Nadal said. “I said that before coming here it was going to be a tough week, even though I have lost to one of the fittest players of the world with no doubts, I even had my opportunities.
“I have played two-and-a-half hours and three matches. This is a positive outcome. From here onwards, just looking forward with optimism and happy and excited. We will see what happens. You have to believe.”
Nadal will now head to Rome while Alcaraz now gets a first meeting with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
The Serb continues to improved and today he eased past Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 for his very first Top 20 win over 2022.
“I was serving really well in the second set, I think that kept me alive,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I was pleased with the way I was constructing points. I tried to make him run and miss and overall It was a solid performance.
“It is definitely warmer today, even in the past two hours since the warm up, the bounce of the ball has increased by two metres. Hubi is tall and with his rotation in this altitude, everything bounces really high, so I was standing [deep] in the court, trying to mix things up. Put pressure on his first serve. It took us both time to adjust and the second set I think was better quality.”
Defending champion Alexander Zverev moved on despite nine double faults. The 2-time champion had a set and 4-1 leads with points for 5-1, but eventually pulled it out over Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-5.
“I think this was maybe the best match of the last few months from my side, except maybe the end a little bit,” Zverev said.
“I couldn’t put a serve in the court,” he added. “I had chances to go up 5-1 in the second set and I think the match would have been over. But I didn’t use my chances and he fought back well. But I kept fighting as well, and that’s how I got the win.”
Tomorrow, his budding rivalry with Stefanos Tsitsipas resumes. The Monte Carlo champion was too good for Andrey Rublev 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to reach his 10th Masters semifinal.
“He was really applying a lot of force into the strokes, and it wasn’t easy predicting what was going to come next,” said Tsitsipas after fending off two Rublev break points in the final game to clinch the win. “But I’m very glad with the way things ended.
“It’s never easy playing him, and I really had to survive that last game with my best strength and give out my soul, pretty much, to finish it in such a good way.”
Tsitsipas leads Zverev 7-3 and 3-0 on clay.
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May 7th, 2022 at 1:04 pm