Young Spanish hopeful Carlos Alcaraz will take on legend Nadal for the first time in the second round of the Masters 1000 in Madrid on Monday.
Trained by the former world No. 1 and 2003 Roland-Garros winner Juan-Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz, 120th in the world and beneficiary of an invitation, did not tremble to honor his meeting on Wednesday: he swept away Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (34th) 6-4, 6-0 in just 71 minutes. “We always say that reaching the age of majority is super special, but what could be more special? he smiles. I could say that I celebrated my 18th birthday playing against one of the best players in history, one of my idols since I was little. I will never forget that moment. ” This success against Mannarino made him the youngest player to win a match in the Madrid tournament, ahead of a certain … Rafael Nadal (18 in 2004).
It is also his first in Masters 1000, on his second attempt (after Miami at the end of April). Another first in 2021 in the Murcian’s nascent career: at the start of the year in Melbourne, he qualified for his first Grand Slam main draw, and obtained his very first major tournament victory there. Then he reached his first semi-final on the ATP Tour in early April in Marbella, Andalusia. Nadal should not be relied upon to take it lightly.
“Carlos is an incredible player, already with an incredible level of tennis. He will probably soon become one of the best players in the world, ”greeted the Mallorcan with twenty Grand Slam crowns ahead of the tournament. In 2020, at 16, Alcaraz became the first player born in 2003 to win a match on the main circuit (in February in Rio), the youngest Spaniard to win one since … Nadal again (at 15, in 2002 in Mallorca), also the youngest to beat a top 50 player since Richard Gasquet (in 2003 in Marseille).
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One figure sums up his express rise: since last August – and the resumption of the circuit at the time of the pandemic – he has climbed nearly 200 places in the ATP ranking (from 310th to 120th this week). He sees bigger: he has set himself the goal of “finishing the year in the top 50”. Faced with Mannarino on Monday, a bad start in the game, Alcaraz did not procrastinate. If the Frenchman never put him in danger (no break point obtained), he knew how to print his rhythm to the exchange and effectively dictate the game with his forehand. His first bullets sometimes exceeded 210 km / h. And he ended up inflicting a scathing 6-0 to his opponent in the second set. The young Spaniard thus recorded his fourth victory at the expense of a top 50 player. Until then, his highest ranked victim was the Belgian David Goffin (then 14th). His only experience against a top 10 member, specifically Alexander Zverev in Acapulco in March (7th), ended in defeat. The step will be even higher this Wednesday.