Alcaraz fight back on the brink to set up Barcelona final against Carreno Busta

Naomi Osaka believes teenage tennis star Carlos Alcaraz has reignited excitement around the ATP Tour, as she called Rafael Nadal an inspiration ahead of the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz needed just 67 minutes to defeat fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno-Busta 6-3 6-2 at the Barcelona Open last Sunday, claiming his third title of the season after victories in Rio de Janeiro and Miami.

The 18-year-old reached a career-high ninth place in the world rankings, with Alcaraz becoming the youngest player to crack the top 10 since fellow Spaniard Nadal achieved the feat at the same age in 2005.

Coincidentally, Nadal also broke into the top 10 after success on the same day (April 25) at the Barcelona Open and the pair will next compete in Madrid at the ATP 1000 Masters event, which begins on Sunday.

Former women’s world number one Osaka has revealed she was keen to take a look at the duo in the Spanish capital, where they face a first-round qualification, as she hailed Alcaraz’s impact.

“I feel like he really got everyone excited about the ATP and I haven’t seen that in a really long time,” Madrid Open joker Osaka said of the post. of Alcaraz, who boasts an impressive 23-3 record in the 2022 season.

“I don’t even really think about his age, like every time someone talks about his age I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I forget, that’s so cool.’

“I just think about his style of play, how pumped he is, how much I feel like I’m watching him learn in every tournament.

“I don’t know what his ranking was last year here, but I watched almost every tournament he played, the US Open when he played [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and just to see the growth, I think it’s really exciting for everyone.”

Osaka has won her four Grand Slam titles on hard courts, but the 24-year-old will now seek success on clay in Madrid.

Japan’s Osaka spent time preparing in Mallorca, where she was inspired by 13-time French Open winner Nadal given his expertise on the clay courts.

“I think I stole one of the things he did and practiced it recently,” she said of Nadal, who holds the record for most Grand titles Men’s Slam with 21 major victories to his credit.

“It will either go very well or very badly. There is no in-between. But I think the way I did it went pretty well.

“Honestly, I wanted to watch the really good clay court players practice because I feel like I’m the kind of person who learns really fast if I see it up close and honestly, it’s kind of dumb. waste of having all these really good professional tennis players and not watching them.”

Osaka suffered a second-round exit at the Indian Wells Masters in March, impacted by abuse from a heckler in the crowd, but bounced back by reaching the final in Miami, where she lost to world number one Iga Swiatek.

However, Osaka is looking to use the experience of Indian Wells, where she was brought to tears by a bystander who allegedly shouted “Naomi, you suck”, as a learning curve to develop.

“I feel like there were a lot of moments in my career that were extremely sad for me at the time, but I look back on that a bit later and I’m like, ‘Well, that really made me grow as a person, and even though I really hated the experience, I’m glad it happened to me,” she added.

“For me, this is one of those moments. I wish it hadn’t happened, but I’m also glad it did.

“I feel like it prepared me for a lot of things that may or may not happen, but it’s kind of like one of those things you have in your back pocket as an experience.”

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