Carlos Alcaraz has taken out his idol…
In a clash of generations, the 19-year-old Spanish teenage tennis sensation overcame an injury to defeat his idol Rafael Nadal 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Friday.
Alcaraz recovered from a bad ankle twist early in the second set to earn his first victory against the 21-time Grand Slam champion, marking what could be the beginning of a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis.
Alcaraz considered by many in Spain as Nadal’s successor will play his first Madrid semifinal against top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who eased past Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s obvious there is [a change in guard],” Nadal said. “He turned 19 yesterday, I’m almost 36 years old. If [the change] begins today or not, we will find out in the next months. I’m happy for him. He was better than me in several aspects of the game.”
It was Nadal’s first loss to a Spanish competitor in six years, since falling to Fernando Verdasco at the 2016 Australian Open. He had a 138-21 record against his countrymen entering the match against Alcaraz.
“It means a lot to me to beat Rafa, to beat the best player in the history on clay,” Alcaraz said. “This is the result of all the hard work I’ve done.”
Still far from his best form after a six-week injury layoff, Nadal predicted a hard time keeping up with the energy of Alcaraz. And he was right early on, as the youngster overpowered him to easily win the first set with three breaks.
But Alcaraz lost momentum after needing medical attention for the ankle, losing 20 of the next 22 points as Nadal cruised through the second set.
The match also was interrupted in the second set after a fan became ill in the stands of the Caja Mágica center court.
Both players got off to a great start this season as they seek their fourth title of the year, which would be the most on tour.
Nadal’s run was hampered by a rib stress fracture suffered in his semifinal win against Alcaraz in Indian Wells. His other win against the ninth-ranked Alcaraz came in Madrid last year, when the youngster was just starting to attract everyone’s attention.
Nadal saved four match points to get past David Goffin in a third-round match that lasted more than three hours on Thursday.
He said it was a positive balance for him after winning two matches following his injury layoff.
“It’s an easy loss to digest in that regard, because we knew what we could expect here,” Nadal said. “My only dream is (to) be in Paris (for the French Open) healthy enough and physically good enough to compete at the highest level possible.”