King of clay talks challenge of potentially playing Carlos Alcaraz tomorrow.
By Alberto Amalfi | Thursday, May 5, 2022
Grand Slam king Rafael Nadal touts Carlos Alcaraz as a future Slam champion.
Today, Nadal celebrated Alcaraz's 19th birthday presenting him with a new honor. Nadal says the teenage phenom is now "better than me."
More: Nadal Saves Four Match Points in Madrid Thriller
Miami Open champion Alcaraz beat 2021 Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 to set up a spectacular Spanish blockbuster quarterfinal rematch vs. Nadal in Madrid tomorrow.
Asked about facing Alcaraz for the second straight year in Madrid, Nadal said the Barcelona champion is the better player now.
"Well, it's a very, very tough match, of course. I think that today, he is better than me and he has a good dynamic, a good momentum," Nadal said of Alcaraz. "I am conscious on what we have right now. I think I am a very realistic person, and that doesn't take me to not believe that I can win or that I can do it, but today I think that Alcaraz is in a better physical state of mind, is more fit.
"I came here without playing. He's younger, so he has that extra energy. I'm clear who, from the beginning, has some kind of advantage in tomorrow's match. But in that regard, I will try to do as much as possible to be competitive. Of course tomorrow's match will try to win, but whatever the outcome is, that it's something positive for me in the future."
Last May, a fired-up Nadal won nine of the first 10 games rampaging through Alcaraz's 18th birthday with a 6-1, 6-2 sweep to roar into the Mutua Madrid Open round of 16. They played an epic three-hour semifinal in Indian Wells in March with Nadal prevailing despite suffering a fractured rib.
Nadal knows this is a much more mature and confident Alcaraz from the teenager he toasted in Madrid last spring.
Though five-time Madrid champion Nadal is excited about the prospect of playing Alcaraz again, he said their 16-year age gap mutes the prospect of a rivalry.
"As a supporter of tennis and sportsperson, I think it's great to have a player like Carlos that has been able to reach this level and this strength," Nadal said. "I think he's a player that's going to give us a lot of good moments in the next, I don't know, 10, 12 years, 14. This is reality I'm talking about. Talking about rivalry, well, I don't know. If I had 8 or 10 years less, perhaps if Carlos had reached 10 years ago this moment, we could be talking about a new potential rivalry.
"I think that at this moment he's going to be someone that is going to win a lot of things, in my opinion, or at least he's going to have a lot of options to achieve good things."
Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open Facebook