Alcaraz upset idol Nadal to set semi-final date with Djokovic in Madrid

MADRID, May 6 (Reuters) – Teenager Carlos Alcaraz prevailed 6-2 1-6 6-3 over Rafa Nadal in a Spanish Generations clash at the Madrid Open on Friday, earning his first victory over his idol and setting up a semi-final showdown with world number one Novak Djokovic.

In an upside-down contest at the Manolo Santana Stadium, Alcaraz held off an ankle injury to produce a standout performance to become the first Spanish player to beat Nadal since Fernando Verdasco at the 2016 Australian Open.

“It means a lot to me. All the hard work I put in every day has paid off. Beating Rafa – the best clay-court player in history – means a lot,” Alcaraz said.

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Alcaraz suffered a straight-set loss to Nadal in Madrid a year ago on his 18th birthday, winning just three games as a wildcard at 120th.

The pair met again in March in the Indian Wells semi-finals where the older Spaniard won in three sets, but not before Alcaraz highlighted his huge potential. The day after his 19th birthday, he finally took his revenge on his 35-year-old compatriot.

Alcaraz dominated in the first set and dictated the points, but twisted his ankle in the second trying to land a forehand winner.

Nadal took advantage of the stumble to pass the young Spaniard after play was briefly suspended when a spectator became unwell.

Nadal looked set to build on his momentum, but Alcaraz found his form and kept his composure to take on the challenge of the 21-time Grand Slam champion.

“The fall in the second set affected me a lot,” added Alcaraz. “When I lost the second (set) I went to the bathroom and thought I could come back to do my best and try everything.

“I wanted to fight to the last ball and that was key.”

Alcaraz will face Djokovic, who beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-4 earlier, for a place in the final and joked he would turn to Argentinian David Nalbandian for advice on how to topple the Serbian .

In the 2007 tournament, an unranked Nalbandian overcame overwhelming odds and achieved the rare feat of beating the Big Three of Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals, respectively.

“I’m going to text Nalbandian how he did it,” Alcaraz said. “I’m focusing on tomorrow… I’ll fight and let’s see what happens.”

Bidding for his fourth title in the Spanish capital, Djokovic looked much more like himself against Hurkacz as he continued to regain his peak form ahead of the French Open, which begins later this month.

The 34-year-old advanced to the quarter-finals when opponent Andy Murray pulled out of their highly anticipated clash due to illness and the top-seeded Serbian went straight into the game. work against Hurkacz.

Djokovic triumphed after an hour and 20 minutes and dropped 16 winners as he failed to face a break point from Hurkacz, and extended his perfect record against the Pole to 4-0.

Greece’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas outlasted sixth seed Andrey Rublev 6-3 2-6 6-4 to seal his place in the semi-finals, where he will face defending champion Alexander Zverev or Felix Auger-Aliassime .

“It wasn’t easy to play him, it was hard to predict what would come next from him,” said Tsitsipas, who won the Monte Carlo Masters last month.

The victory was also Tsitsipas’ 27th of the season – more than any other player on the ATP Tour – as he improved his record on clay in 2022 to 10-1.

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Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Rohith Nair; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar

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