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Almost one year to the day, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz Garfia are set to clash on the Madrid Open clay in a highly-anticipated rematch. And Nadal must expect a completely different challenge from the ATP Tour rookie he faced and cruised past in the 2021 tournament.
After entering as a wildcard, Alcaraz was coming in off the back of his maiden win in a Masters 1000 event, defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-0 in the first round. It set up a dream match against Nadal, world number two at the time, and he soon received a brutal reality check.
The Spanish icon dominated Alcaraz, only 18 at the time, in a quick 6-1 6-2 triumph in their homeland’s capital. But the only way has been up for the latter ever since, and he entered this year’s Madrid Open as a Masters champion and top-10 player.
He has won four career titles in total, three coming this season, but the highlight of the bunch was his success at the Miami Open, a Masters 1000 showcase like in Madrid. Alcaraz has shot up to world number nine and will face Nadal in their third career meeting on Friday.
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Nadal also came out on top in their second-ever meeting at this season’s Indian Wells Masters, although the 6-4 4-6 6-3 scoreline suggests he’s in for another more hard-fought battle than what he experienced 12 months ago. And Alcaraz believes it’s going to be a different story to his Masters 1000 debut.
He said: “I lost twice against him, and I wanted to play against him the third time. I think it’s going to be different from last year [in Madrid] and the last match that we played [in Indian Wells]. I’m excited to play against Rafa here in Madrid in front of the Spanish crowd. It’s going to be a great day and a great match.”
However, the teenager admitted he ‘doesn’t know’ how he will beat his idol but believes he has a chance to topple him: “Honestly, I don’t know. I always say that he has 1,000 lives. He dies and he survives, in every tough match for him,” Alcaraz explained. “I think if I play a pretty good game, I’ll have chances to win.”
Nadal, 35, is almost double the age of the 19-year-old and could view him as the next face of Spanish tennis. There would be no better way for Alvaraz to make a name for himself than beating the 21-time Grand Slam champion in front of their home crowd.
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