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Rafael Nadal beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals of his resumption tournament in Madrid

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Rising star Carlos Alcaraz, who entered the top 10 before his 19th birthday – which he celebrated on Thursday – will now challenge world number 1 Novak Djokovic for the first time on Saturday in the semi-finals. The Serb easily dismissed the Pole Hubert Hurkacz (14th) 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the afternoon.

Rafael Nadal lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to rising star Carlos Alcaraz, who twisted his ankle in the middle of the match, Friday in the quarter-finals of the Masters 1000 in Madrid, tournament of recovery of the former world number 1 a month and a half after a stress fracture to a rib. The day before, for his second match on ocher in 2022 and a fortnight before Roland-Garros (May 22-June 5), the Spaniard had fought for more than three hours and dismissed four match points to overcome David Goffin. Alcaraz, who entered the top 10 before his 19th birthday – which he celebrated on Thursday – will now challenge world number 1 Novak Djokovic for the first time on Saturday in the semi-finals. The Serb easily dismissed the Pole Hubert Hurkacz (14th) 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the afternoon.

“Rafa” overtaken in defense

For his third face-to-face with his illustrious elder, almost twice his age (36 years old on June 3), Alcaraz had control over the game during the first set: he dictated the game, punished Nadal as soon as he played too short and distilled killer drop shots. On the other side of the net, “Rafa” struggled with all the strength he had left after his grueling fight the day before, but he was overwhelmed in defense. In difficulty on all his service games, the Mallorcan hit only two winning shots in the first set, against 19 in Alcaraz.

But the face of the match suddenly changed when the young Spanish phenomenon twisted his right ankle, on the last point of the third game of the second set, on a change of direction. A stamp and a bandage later, it was no longer the same Alcaraz. Retreating support, borrowed movements, the protege of Juan-Carlos Ferrero no longer put the same commitment in his strikes and also seemed to suffer from the right hand. When the game resumed, “Carlitos” dropped his white serve, then the next three. In total, he lost fourteen of the sixteen points played until the end of the set.

“What happened ?”

Fortunately for him, back from a break in the locker room, he regained his senses – and his strike force – in the decisive round. Enough to escape 3 games to 1, and definitely get the upper hand on the Nadal of the day. “What happened?” he wrote, still in disbelief, on the camera at the end of the match. His prestigious victory earned him the congratulations in person from the King of Spain, Felipe VI, who came to watch the duel between the two faces of Spanish tennis.

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What is Nadal’s assessment of his recovery tournament, with Roland-Garros looming? “I played three matches, whereas I arrived here with non-existent preparation. It was not a disaster at all”, replied the current world number 4.

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