Apprentice beats the master as Alcaraz upends Nadal in Madrid

The 19-year-old survived an ankle scare to beat the 21-times Grand Slam champion in brilliant fashion

Carlos Alcaraz beats Rafael Nadal Madrid AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Mutua Madrid Open | Draw Order of play

Carlos Alcaraz showed Rafael Nadal that he is a star of the present, not just the future, as he beat the 21-times Grand Slam champion 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters on Friday.

Just a day after he turned 19, Alcaraz bossed the king of clay from the baseline in the first set and even after he turned his right ankle early on his way to losing the second set, he bounced back brilliantly to clinch his first ever win over Nadal, becoming just the ninth Spaniard to do so at ATP Tour level.

His reward will be a clash with world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

“It means a lot to me, all the hard work I put in. It means a lot to me,” Alcaraz said.

“(The injury) affected me a lot but when I lost the second, I went to the bathroom and I thought that I was able to comeback, do my best and try everything until the last ball.”

Nerveless Alcaraz dominates first set

Making his comeback after more than a month out because of a fractured rib, Nadal had needed three hours, 10 minutes on Thursday to get past David Goffin, showing some rustiness on his return.

And a combination of that rustiness and perhaps some fatigue allowed Alcaraz to dominate the opening set on a warm, sunny afternoon in Madrid.

Crunching his huge forehand to great effect, he also used his drop shot brilliantly and had Nadal chasing shadows for much of the set as he broke twice, for 2-1 and 5-2 before closing it out in style.

Nadal gets into the match, Alcaraz falls

Tired or not, it still takes an enormous effort to get the better of Nadal on clay and the 35-year-old showed fight at the start of the second, holding a long service game and then moving to 0-40 on the Alcaraz serve.

But Alcaraz saved all three break points, two of them with brilliant drop volleys, to hold for 1-1.

Alcaraz suffered a big scare when he turned his right ankle as he fell to the clay when Nadal held for 2-1, an incident that saw him call for the trainer to have it taped up.

Carlos Alcaraz fall
Alcaraz falls after turning his right ankle at the end of the third game of the second set – AI / Reuters / Panoramic

The 19-year-old was clearly affected by the injury and Nadal took full advantage, breaking immediately for 3-1. A break when someone in the crowd was taken out for illness gave him some extra time but it didn’t make any difference as Nadal cruised through the rest of the set.

Alcaraz regroups in third set

Alcaraz regrouped at the start of the third set to hold serve and then, after a brilliant running forehand helped him recover from 15-30 at 1-1, he profited from a loose Nadal service game to break in the fourth game on his way to a 4-1 lead.

Nadal held serve for 4-2 with some more aggressive play but Alcaraz extended his lead to 5-2 with a good service game of his own. Nadal dug deep again to hold and at least ask the question of the youngster and see if he blinked. He didn’t, clinching victory with a brilliant forehand pass up the line.

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