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Alcaraz advances in Madrid to set up birthday showdown against Nadal

It will be Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Alcaraz in an all-Spanish affair at the Madrid Masters on Wednesday — an amazing birthday present for Alcaraz. The 17-year-old made it possible by beating Adrian Mannarino in the first round.

Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, (© Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic) Rafael Nadal (Esp) et Carlos Alcaraz

What a birthday it will be for Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-0 in round one of the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday afternoon and his reward will be a showdown against none other than fellow Spaniard and all-time great Rafael Nadal on Wednesday. It just so happens that Wednesday is also Alcaraz’s 18th birthday.

The teenager had little trouble making the dream become reality. An obvious favorite given his own fine form at the moment combined with Mannarino’s general dislike for clay, Alcaraz took control right from the start. Juan Carlos Ferrero’s protégée broke in the opening game of the match and that was all he would need to take the first set. Alcaraz dropped only five points in five service games to consolidate his advantage the whole way. The world No. 120 earned break points in two other Mannarino service games, but it hardly mattered that he didn’t convert because he served out the set with ease at 5-4.

From there it was all over. In fact, Mannarino did not even win a single game in set two. The 34th-ranked Frenchman once again failed to even reach deuce in any of his opponent’s service games and he eventually bowed after after just one hour and 11 minutes of play.

Nadal next

The win is Alcaraz’s seventh on the main tour this season and the eighth in his promising career. It is his first at the Masters 1000 level, having previously lost a three-set thriller against Emil Ruusuvuori in the Miami opening round.

“I am really, really happy,” the El Palmar native assured. “This is a special win for me here in Spain, here at La Caja Magica. “[To] win a Masters 1000 match here is amazing.”

Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal, 2021

Best of all, though, is what it leads to next. Alcaraz now gets to play against the most accomplished player from his country in tennis history and without question one of the three best players of all time. Nadal, who at 34 years old is exactly twice as old as Alcaraz right now, is also a five-time champion of this Madrid tournament. Needless to say, given both the setting and the opponent it will be an amazing experience for the youngster.

“For me, [to] play against Rafa is a dream come true,” Alcaraz noted. “Since I was a kid, I wished to play a match against Rafa and now I will be able to here [on] the Centre Court of La Caja Magica in Madrid. It is a really special match against Rafa.”

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