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All-Spanish showdown in Madrid between Nadal and Alcaraz on tap for Friday

It will be Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters on Friday. They also squared off at the 2021 event and it didn’t go well for Alcaraz, but he is now ranked 111 spots higher than he was last spring.

Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2021 Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2021 © Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

Mutua Madrid Open | Draw Order of play

Fans at the Mutua Madrid Open got exactly what they came to see on Thursday: wins by both Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz — and in dramatic fashion, too.

One day later they will get to witness exactly what was anticipated when the draw was revealed last week: an all-Spanish quarter-final clash between Nadal and Alcaraz.

The 35-year-old and the 19-year-old will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers and for the second time at the Madrid Masters. Their first-ever meeting came at this same tournament last spring, when Nadal cruised 6-1, 6-2. A more competitive rematch took place just a couple of months ago in Indian Wells, where the 21-time major champion prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Nadal and Alcaraz just barely make it happen

This dream quarter-final matchup almost didn’t become reality. Both Nadal and Alcaraz needed three sets in their respective third-rounders on Thursday. In fact, Nadal had to save four match points in order to stay in the tournament. That is exactly what he did during a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(9) victory over David Goffin that lasted three hours and nine minutes.

Alcaraz held off Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 after two hours and 39 minutes. It was a perfect 19th birthday celebration for the world No. 9, who picked up a big win and in doing so earned another shot at his idol.

I think it’s going to be different from last year.

Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz was No. 120 in the world when he lost to Nadal last season at the Caja Magica during second-round action. Fast forward 12 months and he is ranked No. 9. Needless to say, the teenager has reason to be confident that things will be much more even this time around.

“I lost twice against him and I wanted to play against him the third time,” Alcaraz said after beating Norrie. “I think it’s going to be different from last year (in Madrid) and the last match that we played (in Indian Wells earlier this spring). I’m excited to play against Rafa here in Madrid in front of the Spanish crowd. It’s going to be a great day and a great match.”

Nadal is also well aware that he is likely in line for a much tougher test than what he faced during the 2021 Madrid event.

“It’s a very, very tough match, of course,” the No. 3 seed assessed. “I think that today he is better than me…. I am conscious on what we have right now. I think I am a very realistic person; that doesn’t take me not believe that I can win or that I can do it, but today I think that Alcaraz is in a better physical state of mind (and) is more fit. I came here without playing (for two months). He’s younger, so he has that extra energy.

“I will try to do as much as possible to be competitive. Of course tomorrow’s match (I) will try to win, but whatever the outcome is, [this week] is something positive for me in the future…. For me, at the end of the day [what’s more important] is who is going to be better in three weeks’ time (at Roland-Garros). That’s my goal.”

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