Carlos Alcaraz overcame injury fear en route to a landmark win over Rafael Nadal on Friday to set up a blockbuster semi-final against Novak Djokovic in Madrid. Alcaraz went into the game with a 0-2 record against Nadal, but knew he had his chances given his opponent’s lack of match play. Nadal was out for six weeks with a rib injury and arrived in Madrid with little to no clay preparation.
In an eventful quarterfinal in the Caja Magica, 19-year-old Alcaraz defeated 21-time Grand Slam champion Nadal 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to take a 26th win of the season that bests the tour. used to be.
“It means a lot to me, all the hard work I put in every day to beat Rafa, to beat the best player in history on clay court, it means a lot to me,” said Alcaraz, the first teenager to beat Nadal. on a clay court.
“The fall in the second set affected me a lot, but when I lost the second I went to the toilet and believed I could come back. I could do my best, try everything on the court, fight to the last ball and I think it was the key.”
The first three games went against service and lasted more than 20 minutes before Alcaraz finally took a 3-1 lead. Nadal racked up just one more game in that set as Alcaraz took a commanding lead.
In the third game of the second set, Alcaraz made a tumble trying to retrieve a ball and had a long medical timeout at 1-2 to have his ankle taped. Replays showed that Alcaraz had rolled his ankle badly.
The seventh seed was broken when play resumed when Nadal took the lead 3-1, but then another interruption came from someone in the crowd.
After a long break, Nadal held on and ran away with the set while Alcaraz looked visibly restricted in his range of motion.
Alcaraz took a toilet break and seemed to move better at the start of the decider and jumped to a 3-1 lead. It was all he needed to complete the win in two hours and 28 minutes and set up a thrilling clash with Djokovic.
– ‘Fantastic for our sport’ –
“Of course I’ll focus on tomorrow. I’ll text (David) Nalbandian to see how he did. I’ll fight and see what happens tomorrow,” Alcaraz joked, referring to Miomir Kecmanovic’s coach David Nalbandian. who defeated both. Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer on their way to the title in Madrid in 2007.
Djokovic reached his seventh semifinal in Madrid, beating Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 to record a 30th career win in the Spanish capital.
The world number one takes on Alcaraz for the first time and praised the young Spaniard after spending some time practicing with him earlier this week.
“I love to watch him play, like many other players on the tour. He is undoubtedly fantastic for our sport. I love that we have a young player who is doing so well and bringing a new breath of fresh air to the tennis world,” said Djokovic.
“Seeing that and knowing that he is a very nice guy, very humble with good values, is a perfect combination.”
Djokovic started his quarterfinals with a break and that was all he needed to take the opening set in 33 minutes.
Hurkacz dropped the service in game five of the second set when Djokovic regained control.
The Polish 12th seed saved two match points on his own serve at 5-3, forcing Djokovic to serve out the win. And the 34-year-old Serb had no trouble closing, reaching the last four with an 81-minute success.
Djokovic did not compete much in 2022 due to his vaccination status which prevented him from playing in Australia or entering the United States.
His win on Friday was just his seventh of the year and he will try to make it to a second final of the season after finishing second in Belgrade last month.
Djokovic was given a walkover in the last 16 when Andy Murray withdrew with an upset stomach.
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