Brilliant Alcaraz edges out Djokovic to reach Madrid Masters final
The 19-year-old became the first man ever to beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive days on clay
Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz pulled off an unprecedented double at the Madrid Masters on Saturday as he beat world No 1 Novak Djokovic 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5), in a brilliant encounter at La Caja Magica on Saturday to reach the final.
One day after taking out the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, in the previous round, the 19-year-old Alcaraz became the first man ever to beat Nadal and Djokovic on consecutive days on clay, booking his place in another Masters 1000 final with a stunning win that took three hours, 35 minutes.
The Spaniard, who has already won three titles in 2022, held his nerve under pressure to win the deciding-set tiebreak and he’ll now face Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev in the final as he chases a second Masters 1000 crown.
“It was so close,” Alcaraz said. “He had chances to break at the end of the second set. I think both of us played an unbelievable match. It gives me a lot of confidence to know I can beat the best players in the world.”
The 19-year-old is the youngest man to beat Nadal and Djokovic in the same event, he’s the youngest ever Madrid finalist and he’s the youngest to beat a world No 1 since Nadal beat Roger Federer at Roland-Garros in 2005.
Alcaraz signalled his intent in the first game when he broke serve, the crowd getting behind him even more than they had when he walked onto court at the start.
The 19-year-old looked calm, assured and showed no signs of the ankle injury he suffered in the second set of his win over Rafael Nadal the previous day, consolidating the break and moving ahead 4-2.
But Djokovic was working his way into form and helped by 21 straight points on serve, he broke back for 4-4 and though Alcaraz regrouped to force a tiebreak, he won it 7-5 to move ahead.
Alcaraz was looking a little more agitated than usual but the 19-year-old stayed in the hunt early in the second set and forced a break point at 3-2 with a sublime drop shot.
But Djokovic saved it with a good forehand and held on, forcing the pressure onto the youngster’s shoulders.
However, Alcaraz was still thinking smartly, using the drop shot brilliantly to keep Djokovic off balance, which came in especially handy when he found himself break point down at 5-5.
Two games later, he forced 0-40 on the Djokovic serve and though the Serb saved the first with a brilliant backhand down the line, he couldn’t save the second as Alcaraz raced up to an angled drop shot and flicked a forehand up the line to seal the set.
Alcaraz had chances early on in the decider, missing three break points in the fourth game, but also had to fend off break points himself as the two stayed neck and neck.
At 4-3, Alcaraz forced 0-30 on the Djokovic serve but couldn’t push home the advantage. In the next game, it was Djokovic’s turn to get to 0-30 but the world No 1 missed an easy forehand and then Alcaraz found the touch on the drop shot before holding on to get within a game of the win.
The Spaniard finished off an epic rally with a thumping forehand winner to get to match point at 5-4, 30-40, but Djokovic closed the door with an ace and then held twice more to force a deciding tiebreak.
Alcaraz had won nine and lost just one of his 10 previous deciding-set tiebreaks and began this one in style with a forehand drive volley winner and went on to open up a 3-1 lead.
Djokovic retrieved the mini-break with a superb volley but another big forehand made it 4-2 to Alcaraz but again the world No 1 hit back, a brilliant return getting him back on serve at 4-5. A missed backhand handed Alcaraz a second match point and though he missed the return, he clinched victory on his third with yet another forehand winner.