Alcaraz defeats idol Nadal at the Madrid Open

MADRID — In a clash of generations, Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz overcame injury to defeat his idol Rafael Nadal 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Friday.

Alcaraz, 19, recovered from a bad ankle sprain early in the second set to earn his first win against the 21-time Grand Slam champion, which could be the start of a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis.

The youngster considered by many in Spain to be Nadal’s successor will play his first final in Madrid against top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4.

“It is obvious that there [a change in guard]Nadal said. “He turned 19 yesterday, I’m almost 36 years old. Yes [the change] starts today or not, we will know in the coming months. I am happy for him. He was better than me in various 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 compatriots going into the match against Alcaraz.

“It means a lot to me to beat Rafa, to beat the best player in 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 forecast a difficult time keeping up with Alcaraz’s energy. And he was right from the start, as the youngster outclassed him to easily win the first set with three breaks.

But Alcaraz lost momentum after needing medical attention for his ankle, dropping 20 of the next 22 points as Nadal rallied through the second set.

The match was also interrupted in the second set due to the illness of a fan in the stands of the central court of the Caja Mágica.

Both players had a great start to the season in search of their fourth title of the year, which would be the most on tour.

Nadal’s streak was hampered by a stress fracture of the ribs he suffered in his semi-final win against Alcaraz in Indian Wells. His other victory against Alcaraz, ranked ninth, came in Madrid last year, when the youngster began to attract everyone’s attention.

Nadal, 35, saved four match points to overcome 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 games after his injury break.

“I accept this loss naturally and calmly,” Nadal said. “I know the path I have to follow to be able to arrive (in Paris) with real options in two and a half weeks. I’m working on that now.”

I made what I could. I’ve had better days, worse days. But it has not been a disaster in any case. I have competed with the right attitude. I’ve played two, two and a half hours, almost three, I think three games, this is a positive result”.

Three-time Madrid champion Djokovic had little trouble against Hurkacz. The Serbian star took advantage of Hurkacz’s slow start and took a 3-0 lead after the Polish player gave up his first service game with a long shot.

Another series of unforced errors cost Hurkacz a break in the second set when he hit a long forehand. Djokovic’s dominance never wavered and he won on his fourth match point.

Djokovic beat Gael Monfils in straight sets to start his campaign at the outdoor clay court tournament, and Andy Murray gave Djokovic a walkover after retiring due to stomach illness before Thursday’s match.

Djokovic is trying to get back to his best form after he was not allowed to play at the Australian Open because he was not vaccinated.

“It’s definitely a positive indication that I’m on the right track in terms of getting to the desired level of tennis, being in one of the best tournaments in the world where the best players are playing,” Djokovic said. It gives me confidence, and encourages me to keep going. I have a lot of positive things to take away from the last few days.”

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