Rafael Nadal to Battle Carlos Alcaraz in Las Vegas Exhibition Match in March

Rafael Nadal is headed to Sin City…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis superstar will face off against compatriot and current World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in an exhibition match in Las Vegas on March 5.

Rafael NadalNadal owns a men’s-record 22 Grand Slam titles, including two in 2022 at the Australian Open in January and French Open in June, while Alcaraz, 19, claimed his first major trophy at the US Open in September.

The two Spaniards finished 1-2 in this year’s ATP rankings: Alcaraz is the youngest man to finish at No. 1, while Nadal is the oldest to finish at No. 2. They’re also the first two countrymen to lead the men’s rankings since Americans Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in 1996.2d

The match being touted, boxing-style, as “The Slam: Nadal vs. Alcaraz” will be held inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Tickets go on sale Friday.

Nadal and Alcaraz have played each other three times in official tournaments, all at Masters 1000 events. Nadal leads 2-1, with Alcaraz’s victory coming in their most recent meeting, in May on red clay at Madrid.

Carlos Alcaraz Becomes Youngest Year-End No. 1 in ATP History

Carlos Alcaraz has another a place in tennis history once again…

The 19-year-old Spanish professional tennis player is the youngest year-end No. 1 in the history of the ATP computerized rankings.

Carlos AlcarazHe also joins fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal as the first players from the same country to claim the top two spots at the close of a season since Americans Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in 1996.

The final men’s tennis rankings for 2022 were published Monday, and Alcaraz’s rise from No. 32 at the end of 2021 is the largest single-season jump to No. 1.

Alcaraz, who turned 19 in May, has remained atop the rankings since he won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September by beating Casper Ruud in the final.

That made Alcaraz the first male teen at No. 1 since the ATP computerized rankings began in 1973.

He’s the first man in 20 years other than Nadal, Roger FedererNovak Djokovic or Andy Murray — since Andy Roddick in 2003 — to finish at No. 1.

Alcaraz ended his season early after tearing an abdominal muscle while competing at the Paris Masters a month ago.

The 36-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, is the oldest man to finish a year ranked first or second. He also extended his own record by placing in the top 10 at the end of a year for the 18th consecutive season. The recently retired Federer is the only other man with that many top-10 finishes over the course of a career.

Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open to raise his men’s-record Grand Slam total to 22 trophies, one ahead of Djokovic and two ahead of Federer.

Ruud finishes at No. 3, followed by No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 Djokovic, No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 7 Daniil Medvedev, No. 8 Andrey Rublev, No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz.

Djokovic couldn’t play at the Australian Open or US Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and didn’t earn any rankings boost for his title at Wimbledon because the WTA and ATP stripped that tournament of any points over the All England Club‘s ban on players from Russia and Belarus.

Caroline Garcia Defeats Maria Sakkari to Advance to Her First WTA Finals Championship Match

Caroline Garcia is one win away from the biggest title of her career…

The 29-year-old part-Spanish French tennis player, who reached the WTA Finals semifinals five years ago, has taken it to the next level.

Caroline Garcia,Garcia defeated in-form Maria Sakkari, 6-3, 6-2, on Sunday to reach the biggest final of her career against Aryna Sabalenka.

“I’m five years older and maybe five years wiser,” she quipped on court after the match. “You try to learn from everything. We got some tough experiences the last couple years, but I’ve got a big team behind me and supporting me, staying positive even when I was negative about myself. It’s definitely a great year. A lot of things happened that I didn’t think would happen!”

The former world No. 4 dealt with years of injuries and inconsistencies following her 2017 peak, but made a steady-to-meteoric rise in 2022. She won three titles to return to the world’s Top 8 and at last fulfill her presaged potential with a 75-minute win on the WTA Finals Stadium Court, striking 21 winners and six aces.

As an unheralded teenager, she famously earned a ringing endorsement from Andy Murray as he watched Garcia nearly stun Maria Sharapova at the 2011 French Open, and as she has unconsciously spent her career striving to meet Murray’s lofty prediction, the tennis world has long swung from earnest to derisive in its repetition of that sporting myth.

Garcia never looked farther from that goal post at the start of this season when she took an extended absence to heal niggling injuries, but she emerged a fresh, hyper-aggressive athlete who took the racquet out of opponents’ hands. The dividends were small at first, earning her a pair of WTA 250 titles in the summer, but it all came together just before the US Open—ironically when she last played Sakkari.

Garcia was ranked No. 79 in May; she is tentatively set to end the season at her career-high of No. 4.

Garcia has typically met her Greek rival under auspicious circumstances; in their two previous meetings, the Frenchwoman has gone on to win the tournament—most recently at the Western & Southern Open, where she won her first WTA 1000 title since 2017.

The Cincy surge brought Garcia’s 2022 to another level, setting the stage for a first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open, and though the fall initially brought more mixed fortunes, she was able to peak again for her first WTA Finals appearance in five years. Garcia shook off a shock split with Perret to win two of her three round-robin matches, including a three-set epic against No. 8 seed Daria Kasatkina to confirm her berth in the semifinals, and showed no signs of fatigue from the onset against Sakkari, breaking first in the opening set.

“Yesterday, I was obviously a little bit tired, but nothing unusual after such a big match,” she said. “This morning, the legs were a little big heavy but I was just so excited about the emotions and the win of yesterday, and just to be playing a semifinal of the WTA Finals. I was just so excited and feeling very pumped. I spoke to my physio and said, ‘I just hope I last long enough to get to the match!'”

Sakkari had been even more impressive in her second straight WTA Finals appearance, even if it took until the last week of the season to book her ticket to Fort Worth. The two-time Grand Slam semifinalist won all three of her round-robin matches in straight sets, inspired by the slow Dickies Arena court to employ her most aggressive style.

But in a battle of aggressive players, Garcia will almost always win; she strikes an intimidating pose on both serve and return, stepping deep into the court for the latter. Though Sakkari briefly got the match back on serve, Sakkari struck back with another break at love and won seven of the next eight games to lead by a set and two breaks.

As Sakkari struggled to get on the board, the nerves that have so often haunted Garcia in big matches threatened to crop up when a double fault pulled up break point. Refusing to abandon her game plan, the 2022 Ace Leader went just as big on the next serve and struck a backhand down the line to move within a game of the final.

No such nerves returned when it came time to serve for the match: she crashed the net to bring up three match points and though Sakkari saved one with a backhand winner, Garcia pressed one last error from the No. 5 seed to earn her spot in the final.

Carlos Alcaraz & Rafael Nadal Make ATP Rankings History

Carlos Alcaraz and his childhood idol have combined for a ranktastic moment…

The 19-year-old Spanish tennis player, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, and No. 2 Rafael Nadal are the first countrymen to top the ATP rankings in 22 years.

Carlos AlcarazAnd Alcaraz and Nadal are the first men from somewhere other than the United States to sit at 1-2 since the tour introduced computerized rankings in 1973.

Alcaraz rose to the top spot by winning the US Open last month for his first Grand Slam title, becoming the youngest man ever to be No. 1.

Nadal is a 36-year-old Spaniard who has spent 209 weeks atop the rankings and owns a men’s-record 22 major championships, including at the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. He rose from No. 3 to No. 2 on Monday, swapping places with US Open runner-up Casper Ruud.

The last time players from the same country held Nos. 1 and 2 in the ATP rankings was in August 2000, when Americans Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras did it.

“Proud to share this historic moment with @RafaelNadal, the best player of all-time,” Alcaraz wrote in Spanish on Twitter.

Rafael Nadal to Play Doubles with Roger Federer at Laver Cup

Rafael Nadal is partnering with his oldest rival…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis superstar will join forces with Roger Federer as he plays the final professional match of his career at the Laver Cup in London on Friday.

Rafael NadalAt Thursday’s draw, it was confirmed that Federer will join Nadal for Team Europe against the American pair of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock for Team World on Friday night.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, will then be replaced by Italy’s Matteo Berrettini for the rest of the event.

“It’s super special playing with Rafa,” Federer said in a news conference. “… To be able to do that one more time, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.”

Said Nadal: “Tomorrow is going to be a special thing. Difficult. Going to be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt. But for me too. At the end, one of the most important players — if not the most important player — in my tennis career is leaving.”

Federer, 41, who announced last week that he’s retiring because of an ongoing right knee issue, had said Wednesday that playing alongside 22-time Slam champion Nadal would be a unique, fitting way to go out.

“For as long as we battled together, having had always this respect for one another, our families, coaching teams, for us as well to go through a career we both have had, come out the other side and have a nice relationship, is maybe a great message to tennis and beyond,” Federer said.

The three-day team event will begin Friday afternoon at The O2 Arena with two singles matches. Norwegian Casper Ruud, the runner-up at the US Open earlier this month, will play Sock in the opener before Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece takes on Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.

The evening session will begin with former world No. 1 Andy Murray up against Alex de Minaur before Federer takes the court for the final time.

“I’m not sure if I can handle it all, but I’ll try,” Federer said Thursday about his sure-to-be-emotional on-court farewell.

Tiafoe, who beat Nadal en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open this month, deadpanned about the matchup, “Yeah, I’m just excited to play two up-and-comers tomorrow,” before adding, “It’s going to be iconic to be a part of that. Both guys are absolute legends.”

Federer and Nadal played each other in singles 40 times (Nadal won 26), including 14 Grand Slam matchups (Nadal won 10, going 6-3 in finals). Nadal came out on top in their classic 2008 Wimbledon final, considered by some the greatest match in history, while Federer won their last showdown, in the 2019 semifinals at the All England Club.

They also played one other doubles match together, defeating Jack Sock and Sam Querrey at the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017.

“To be part of this historic moment,” Nadal said about Friday, “is going to be something amazing, unforgettable.”

Carlos Alcaraz Wins US Open Title to Become Youngest Man to Lead ATP Rankings

Carlos Alcaraz has doubled up on his significant achievements…

The 19-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 to claim his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, in his first appearance in a Grand Slam final no less.

Carlos AlcarazIn the process, Alcaraz is now the No. 1 player in men’s tennis.

Alcaraz used his combination of moxie and maturity to Ruud for the trophy at Flushing Meadows and become the youngest man to lead the ATP rankings.

“Well, this is something that I dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Alcaraz, whom folks of a certain age might still consider a kid. “It’s something I worked really, really hard [for]. It’s tough to talk right now. A lot of emotions.”

Appearing in his eighth major tournament and second at Flushing Meadows, Alcaraz has attracted plenty of attention as someone considered the next big thing in men’s tennis.

He’s the youngest man to win a major title since Rafael Nadal was the same age at the 2005 French Open, and the youngest at the US Open since 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1990.

“He’s one of these few rare talents that comes up every now and then in sports. That’s what it seems like,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway. “Let’s see how his career develops, but it’s going all in the right direction.”

Alcaraz was serenaded by choruses of “Ole, Ole, Ole! Carlos!” that reverberated off the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium — and he often motioned to the supportive spectators to get louder.

He only briefly showed signs of fatigue from having to get through three consecutive five-setters to reach the title match, something no one had done in New York in 30 years. He spent a total of 23 hours, 40 minutes on court in the tournament, the most by any men’s player during any one major tournament since the start of 2000.

Alcaraz went five sets against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round, ending at 2:23 a.m. Tuesday; against Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, a 5-hour, 15-minute thriller that ended at 2:50 a.m. Friday after Alcaraz needed to save a match point; and against Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.

“You have to give everything on court. You have to give everything you have inside. I worked really, really hard to earn it,” Alcaraz said after the final. “It’s not time to be tired.”

This was not a stroll to the finish, though.

Alcaraz dropped the second set and faced a pair of set points while down 6-5 in the third. But he erased each of those point-from-the-set opportunities for Ruud with the sorts of quick-reflex, soft-hand volleys he repeatedly displayed. And with help from a series of shanked shots by a tight-looking Ruud in the ensuing tiebreaker, Alcaraz surged to the end of that set.

“He just played too good on those points. We’ve seen it many times before: He steps up when he needs to,” Ruud said. ‘When it’s close, he pulls out great shots.”

One break in the fourth was all it took for Alcaraz to seal the victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and the top spot in the ATP’s computerized rankings, which date to 1973.

The winner was guaranteed to be first in Monday’s rankings; the loser was guaranteed to be second.

“Both Carlos and I, we knew what we were playing for. We knew what was at stake,” Ruud said. “I think it’s fitting. I’m disappointed, of course, that I’m not No. 1, but No. 2 is not too bad, either.”

He is now 0-2 in Slam finals after being runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June.

Ruud stood way back near the wall to return serve, but also during the course of points, much more so than Alcaraz, who attacked when he could. Alcaraz went after Ruud’s weaker side, the backhand, and found success that way, especially while serving.

If nothing else, Ruud gets the sportsmanship award for conceding a point he knew he didn’t deserve. It came while he was trailing 4-3 in the first set; he raced forward to a short ball that bounced twice before Ruud’s racket touched it.

Play continued, and Alcaraz hesitated and then flubbed his response. But Ruud told the chair umpire what had happened, giving the point to Alcaraz, who gave his foe a thumbs-up and applauded right along with the spectators to acknowledge the move.

Alcaraz certainly seems to be a rare talent, possessing an enviable all-court game, a blend of groundstroke power with a willingness to push forward and close points with his volleying ability. He won 34 of 45 points when he went to the net Sunday. He is a threat while serving — he delivered 14 aces at up to 128 mph on Sunday — and returning, earning 11 break points, converting three.

Alcaraz, Ruud said, showed “incredible fighting spirit and will to win.”

Make no mistake: Ruud is no slouch, either. There’s a reason he is the youngest man since Nadal to get to two major finals in one season and managed to win a 55-shot point, the longest of the tournament, in the semifinals Friday.

But this was Alcaraz’s time to shine under the lights.

For context on the rankings, it is helpful to know that Novak Djokovic did not play at the US Open or Australian Open this year, unable to enter those countries because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, and did not receive any ranking boost for his Wimbledon championship because no points were on offer for anyone after the All England Club banned athletes from Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is significant that Alcaraz is the first male teenager at No. 1. No one else did it. Not Nadal, not Djokovic, not Federer, not Sampras. No one.

When one last service winner glanced off Ruud’s frame, Alcaraz dropped to his back on the court, then rolled over onto his stomach, covering his face with his hands. Then he went into the stands for hugs with his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former No. 1 himself who won the French Open in 2003 and reached the final of that year’s US Open, and others, crying all the while.

You get to No. 1 for the first time only once. You win a first Grand Slam title only once. Many folks expect Alcaraz to be celebrating these sorts of feats for years to come.

Carlos Alcaraz Outlasts Frances Tiafoe at US Open to Reach His First-Ever Grand Slam Final

Carlos Alcaraz continues his historic run at the US Open

In another five-set match, the 19-year-old Spanish professional tennis player defeated Frances Tiafoe on Friday night, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, to move through to the first Grand Slam final of his career.

Carlos Alcaraz With the win, Alcaraz has become only the second teenager in the entire Open Era to reach the men’s final at Flushing Meadows.

Alcaraz had previously registered back-to-back five-set victories in his last two rounds against Marin Cilic and Jannik Sinner—two of the five latest finishes in the tournament’s history.

YOUNGEST US OPEN MEN’S FINALISTS IN THE OPEN ERA:

  • 19 years, 1 month: Pete Sampras (1990 champion)
  • 19 years, 4 months: Carlos Alcaraz (2022, result TBD)
  • 20 years, 3 months: Bjorn Borg (1976 runner-up)
  • 20 years, 4 months: Novak Djokovic (2007 runner-up)
  • 20 years, 5 months: Andre Agassi (1990 runner-up)

Having reached the quarterfinals in his US Open debut last year, Alcaraz is also just the fourth man in the Open Era to reach the final in their second appearance at the US Open, joining Tom Okker in 1968, Jan Kodes in 1971 and Miloslav Mecir in 1986—all of whom finished runner-up. No man has ever reached the final in their debut appearance.

Alcaraz, whose win over Tiafoe was his ATP-leading 50th win of the year, is now guaranteed to rise to either No. 1 or No. 2 on the ATP rankings after the tournament.

If he defeats Casper Ruud in the final, he’ll be No. 1 and Ruud No. 2; if Ruud beats him in the final, the Norwegian will be No. 1 and the Spaniard No. 2.

Carlos Alcaraz Reaches First Grand Slam Semifinal in Historic Fashion at US Open

Carlos Alcaraz has reached his first grand slam semifinal in historic fashion…

The 19-year-old Spanish tennis player triumphed in a captivating, five-set encounter against Jannik Sinner at the US Open that ended at 2:50 am local time.

Carlos AlcarazIt was, by nearly half an hour, the latest ever finish in the tournament’s history.

Alcaraz dropped to the floor and put his hand over his face in disbelief when he sealed match point having come perilously close to defeat in the previous set.

The 6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory lasted five hours and 15 minutes – Alcaraz’s second consecutive marathon match after his five-set victory against Marin Cilic in the previous round.

Sinner was serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, but Alcaraz hit back by winning the next three games in a row to force a decider – saving a match point in the process.

Sinner then led by a break in the fifth set, too, only for Alcaraz to once again refuse to bow down.

“This match is insane. I leave at 6am for the airport but I refuse to sleep and miss this,” tweeted American star Coco Gauff.

Alcaraz becomes the youngest men’s grand slam semifinalist since compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest at the US Open since Pete Sampras in 1990.

“I always say that you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “Hope is the last thing that you lose … I have to stay in the match, trying to stay calm, but it’s difficult to stay calm in that moment.”

Alcaraz will next play another maiden grand slam semifinalist in Frances Tiafoe, the American having defeated Andrey Rublev in his quarterfinal.

Victory means Alcaraz could still become the youngest No. 1 in the history of the men’s rankings next week following top-ranked Daniil Medvedev’s early exit from the tournament.

Caroline Garcia Defeats Coco Gauff at US Open to Reach First-Ever Grand Slam Semifinal

Caroline Garcia is celebrating a special first…

The 28-year-old part-Spanish French tennis player defeated Coco Gauff 6-3, 6-4 at the US Open to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

Caroline GarciaGarcia, the tournament’s 17th seed, produced a clinical display to beat the 18-year-old 12th seed.

The in-form Garcia has yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows, with this her 13th successive win in a streak that included her claiming her first WTA 1000 win in five years at Cincinnati.

In only her second major quarterfinal – and first since the 2017 French Open – Garcia immediately put Gauff on the back foot on Arthur Ashe Stadium and rarely relented.

Making her 42nd Grand Slam appearance, Garcia unsettled her opponent and subdued the home crowd with a fast start in which she quickly established a 4-0 lead with a second break of serve.

Contesting her first quarterfinal at her home Slam, Gauff hit back in the fifth game but the damage had already been done. Garcia punched the air as she went on to clinch her first set point on serve after 45 minutes.

The teenager was bidding to become the youngest American woman to reach the last four in New York since Serena Williams did so aged 17 in 1999.

However, her task was made even tougher as she lost her serve in the opening game of the second set.

Willed on by the crowd, Gauff – set to make her top-10 debut after the tournament – saved two break points when trailing 3-1 but crucially she was unable to take an opportunity of her own in the following game.

Garcia dropped her racquet and held her hands up in disbelief as Gauff netted on the first match point to make her the first Frenchwoman to reach the last four since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006.

Garcia will meet Ons Jabeur for a place in the US Open final.

Carlos Alcaraz Outlasts Marin Cilic to Reach US Open Quarterfinals & World No. 1 Hopes Alive

Carlos Alcaraz is one step closer to tennis history…

The 19-year-old Spanish professional tennis player defeated 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round of the grand slam tournament, as he continues his march towards becoming the youngest World No. 1 in ATP Rankings history.

Carlos AlcarazAlcaraz, the third seed at the US Open, outlasted the former World No. 3 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows for the second consecutive year.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Alcaraz said of how he won the match. “It was pretty, pretty tough at the beginning of the fifth set [being a] break down. But Marin was playing unbelievable. I believe in myself all the time. Of course the support today in Arthur Ashe [Stadium] was crazy. Without you guys, it wouldn’t be possible to win this match tonight, so thank you very much for the support tonight, thank you.

“I would say 100 per cent of the energy I put in the fifth set was thanks to you. It was unbelievable.”

For a moment, Alcaraz’s tournament hopes of reaching No. 1 on 12 September were slipping away. Cilic caught fire from the baseline and powered his way back into the match to force a decider and led by a break early in the fifth set. But Alcaraz showed his competitive spirit and immediately struck back before surging to the finish after three hours and 53 minutes.

“After a fourth set [when] I had a lot of opportunities… it was tough for me to come back in the fifth set, to stay strong mentally,” Alcaraz said. “But as I said, the energy that I received today made me win.”

With Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal losing over the past two days, the stakes have been raised for Alcaraz in New York. Not only is the teen pursuing his maiden Grand Slam title — he is also trying to ascend to the pinnacle of men’s tennis.

If the Spaniard reaches the final and Casper Ruud does not, Alcaraz will climb to World No. 1 on the Monday after the US Open. If Ruud makes the final and Alcaraz does not, the Norwegian will ascend to the top spot. If both men make the championship match, the winner will depart with the trophy and World No. 1. Alcaraz is up to No. 2 in the ATP Live Rankings.

Alcaraz was focused on the player in front of him in the fourth round, Cilic, and he needed to be. The Spaniard withstood a barrage of booming groundstrokes from the Croatian in the early hours of the morning and found some of his best tennis when it mattered most. Alcaraz dropped to his knees to celebrate his victory and both players shared special moments with the remaining crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, thanking the fans on their way off the court.

Early in the fourth set, the dynamics of the match changed when Alcaraz began to return Cilic’s serve from near the back wall, allowing the 33-year-old to take the first big strike in rallies. Alcaraz was left scrambling to avoid playing defence against his aggressive opponent.

When Alcaraz missed a forehand to go down a break in the fifth set, Cilic appeared in control. The Croatian has plenty of experience in difficult moments and was the only Grand Slam champion remaining in the draw.

But Alcaraz’s resolve never waned. The third seed continued battling and that paid dividends when he found an incredible angle to get back on serve. He never looked back from there, finding a way through the clash in which he struck 28 winners and converted six of his 18 break points.

Next up for the Spaniard will be 11th seed Jannik Sinner, another former Next Gen ATP Finals champion. The Italian also needed five sets to win his fourth-round match.

“I played a couple of times against him. He’s a great player, a really, really tough one,” said Alcaraz, who trails their ATP Head2Head series 1-2. “I lost twice in the past two months, so I will have to be ready for this battle against Jannik.”