Changing of the guard? Alcaraz dominates Nadal at the Madrid Open | Radio WGN 720

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MADRID (AP) This time the Spanish player celebrated on center court was not Rafael Nadal.

Rather, the cheers from onlookers at Madrid’s Caja Magica were directed at the teenage sensation seen as the Spanish successor to the all-time great Nadal.

In a clash of generations, 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz overcame injury to defeat his idol 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open on Friday.

The teenager recovered from a bad ankle twist at the start of the second set to claim his first victory over Nadal, marking what could be the start of a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis.

“Obviously there is (a changing of the guard),” Nadal said. “He turned 19 yesterday, I’m almost 36. Whether (the change) starts today or not, we’ll find out in the next few months. I’m happy for him. He was better than me in several aspects of the game. Game. “

Nadal was also heavily supported throughout the match, and the five-time champion received a huge ovation as he left the pitch.

Alcaraz was emotional afterwards.

“It means a lot to me to beat Rafa, to beat the best player in history on clay,” he said. “It’s the result of all the hard work I’ve put in.”

It was Nadal’s first loss to a Spaniard in six years, since against Fernando Verdasco at the 2016 Australian Open. He was 138-21 against his compatriots before facing Alcaraz for the third time.

Alcaraz, ninth in the table, is the youngest semi-finalist in Madrid. He will next face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4.

The other semi-final will pit Stefanos Tsitsipas against defending champion Alexander Zverev. Tsitsipas, seeded fourth, beat Andrey Rublev 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, while second-seeded Zverev beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-5.

Still far from his best form after a six-week injury layoff, Nadal predicts he will struggle to keep up with Alcaraz’s energy. He was right from the start, as the youngster overpowered him to easily win the first set with three breaks.

But Alcaraz lost momentum after needing medical treatment for his right ankle, dropping 20 of the next 22 points as Nadal went through the second set.

“It was a little sore, but that was no reason to do the second set I did,” Alcaraz said. “I think I let myself go. I was always thinking about my ankle and not about playing the game.

The match was also interrupted in the second set after a fan fell ill in the stands.

Both players are off to a great start this season; the two already have three titles in the lead on tour.

Nadal’s run has been hampered by a stress fracture to his ribs he suffered in his semi-final win over Alcaraz in Indian Wells. Nadal saved four match points to pass David Goffin in a third-round match that lasted more than three hours on Thursday.

He said it was a positive for him after winning two games following his injury layoff.

“It’s an easy to digest loss in that regard because we knew what to expect here,” he said. “My only dream is (to) be in Paris (for Roland-Garros) healthy enough and physically good enough to compete at the highest possible level.”

Three-time Madrid champion Djokovic had little trouble against Hurkacz. The Serbian took advantage of Hurkacz’s slow start and took a 3-0 lead after the Polish player gave up his first service game with a long shot.

Another series of unforced errors cost Hurkacz a second-set break when he hit a long forehand. Djokovic’s dominance never ended and he won on his fourth match point.

Djokovic is trying to get back to his best form after not being cleared to play at the Australian Open as he was not vaccinated.

“It’s definitely a positive indication that I’m on the right track to reach the desired level of tennis, to be in one of the best tournaments in the world where all the best players are playing,” he said. “It gives me confidence and encourages me to continue. I have a lot of positives to take from the past few days. »

Djokovic beat Gael Monfils in straight sets to start his campaign at the outdoor clay-court tournament, and a surprise after Andy Murray pulled out with a stomach ailment ahead of their match on Thursday.

Djokovic praised Alcaraz after joining Madrid this week and said his son had already replaced Nadal with the young Spaniard as his favorite player.

Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson contributed to this report.

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