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Alcaraz The matador defeats Nadal the Bull in three sets, will meet Djokovic in Madrid Masters semifinals

Carlos Alcaraz is the first teenager to defeat Rafael Nadal on a clay court. Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open Facebook

By Ricky Dimon

The marquee quarterfinal matchup that had been eagerly anticipated since the Mutua Madrid Open draw came out last week certainly did not disappoint on Friday afternoon.

An all-Spanish affair between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz went the distance, and it was the youngster who ended up prevailing 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 after two hours and 28 minutes. Alcaraz beat Nadal for the first time in three chances to set up a semifinal showdown against Novak Djokovic.

As the scoreline suggests, it was a roller-coaster ride with substantial momentum swings for both players. Alcaraz broke serve three times in the first set alone, but he rolled his right ankle at 1-1 in the second set. Neither a medical timeout nor a 10-minute delay for a health issue in the stands proved to be an immediate cure for the teenager, who did not win another game in set two. A break prior to the third, however, appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Alcaraz came back out and throughout the decider he looked like the player who has compiled a ridiculous 26-3 match record in 2022.

A love break at 2-1 was enough for the world No. 9, as there were no other break points in the third set.

“All the hard work that I put in every day pays off today,” Alcaraz noted. “To beat Rafa, to beat the best player in history on clay, it means a lot to me…. I’m very excited; a lot of excitement. Very few players can say that they have defeated Rafa on clay. I feel fortunate to be one of them. Right now I am very, very happy.

“It [was] a tough second set. I twisted my ankle. It was a little bit painful while I was playing, but it was no reason to do (in) the second set what I [did]…. I was thinking of my ankle all the time and not on playing the match. I lost the second set, and then after I went to the bathroom. It helped me. I washed my face. ‘Okay, Charlie, if you’re not going to pull out, think about playing. Don’t think [about] your ankle. Don’t think [about anything] else. Fight till the very last ball, because you know that you are capable of doing it.'”

Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open Facebook

Nadal is trying to work himself into peak form prior to the French Open, having been sidelined for two months by a rib injury until he took the court in Madrid.

“I just accept [the loss] naturally with calm and with security that there is a path to continue until [Roland Garros] to try to generate with myself real options,” the 35-year-old explained. “That’s what I’m working on right now. It’s an easy loss to digest in that regard, because we knew what we could expect here. (But) I don’t take away any merit from Carlos. Congratulations to him. He’s playing great, and I hope the best for him for the rest of the tournament.”

Next up for Alcaraz as the business end of the tournament continues is a first-ever matchup against Djokovic. The world No. 1 defeated Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.