Alcaraz overpowers Nadal at Madrid Open

Getty Images
7 Comments

MADRID — This time, the Spanish player being celebrated on center court wasn’t Rafael Nadal.

The loud cheers from spectators at the Caja Magica in Madrid were, instead, directed at the teenage sensation considered the Spanish successor to the all-time great Nadal.

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

The teen recovered from a bad ankle twist early in the second set to earn his first victory against Nadal, marking what could be the beginning of a change of guard in Spanish tennis.

“It’s obvious there’s (a change in guard),” Nadal said. “He turned 19 yesterday, I’m almost 36 years old. If (the change) begins today or not, we will find out in the next months. I’m happy for him. He was better than me in several aspects of the game.”

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

Alcaraz was emotional afterwards.

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

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

The ninth-ranked Alcaraz is the youngest ever semifinalist in Madrid. He will next face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who eased past Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4.

The other semifinal will be between Stefanos Tsitsipas and defending champion Alexander Zverev. The fourth-seeded Tsitsipas defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, while the second-seeded Zverev beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-5.

Still far from his best form after a six-week injury layoff, Nadal predicted a hard time keeping up with the energy of Alcaraz. He was right early on, as the youngster overpowered him to easily win the first set with three breaks.

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

“It was a little bit painful, but it was no reason to do the second set that I have done,” Alcaraz said. “I think that I have let myself go. I was thinking of my ankle all the time and not on playing the match.”

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

Both players got off to a great start this season; both have a tour-leading three titles already.

Nadal’s run was hampered by a rib stress fracture he sustained in his semifinal win against Alcaraz in Indian Wells. Nadal saved four match points to get past David Goffin in a third-round match that lasted more than three hours on Thursday.

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

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

Three-time Madrid champion Djokovic had little trouble against Hurkacz. The Serb took advantage of Hurkacz’s slow start and took a 3-0 lead after the Polish player ceded his first service game by hitting long.

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

Djokovic is trying to regain his best form after not being allowed to play in the Australian Open because he was not vaccinated.

“It’s definitely a positive indication that I am on the right track in terms of getting to the desired level of tennis, being in one of the best tournaments in the world where all the best players are playing,” he said. “It does give me confidence, and it encourages me to keep going. I have a lot of positives to take from the last couple of days.”

Djokovic beat Gael Monfils in straight sets to start his campaign at the outdoor clay tournament, and a walkover after Andy Murray withdrew because of a stomach illness before their match on Thursday.

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

Giron cruises in 3rd set, beats Rybakov at Dallas Open

2023 Australian Open - Day 1
Getty Images
1 Comment

DALLAS – Marcos Giron advanced to the second round of the Dallas Open with a 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-1 victory over Alex Rybakov on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Giron, who reached the semifinals of the inaugural event a year ago, responded quickly after failing to close out the second set, winning the first five games of the deciding set.

Rybakov broke his fellow American when Giron was serving for the match in the second set. Then Rybakov won the first six points of the second-set tiebreaker.

“I’m really happy with how I was able to reset in the third and just get back to the game plan from the beginning and elevate,” Giron said. “He played well and served well and kind of hung in there.”

Eighth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France won the final five points of a first-set tiebreaker and the last four games of the second to beat American Steve Johnson 7-6 (6), 6-2.

J.J. Wolf, the No. 6 seed, had little trouble in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow American Brandon Holt.

John Isner, the fifth seed and unofficial tournament host in his hometown event, played later Tuesday. Like Giron, Isner lost in the semifinals last year.

Sock wins at Dallas Open, set to face top-seeded Fritz

Getty Images
3 Comments

DALLAS – Wild-card entry Jack Sock opened with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka at the Dallas Open, setting up a second-round meeting with top-seeded fellow American Taylor Fritz.

Sock broke Ivashka’s serve in the final game to win the match. Ivashka fell behind 2-0 to start the final set but broke Sock to get back on serve.

Down a break early in the second set, Ivashka rallied to force the deciding set after Sock cruised in the first-set tiebreaker.

The eighth-ranked Fritz is back for the second Dallas Open after losing in the semifinals as the top seed in the inaugural edition of the indoor hard-court event last year. Defending champion Reilly Opelka isn’t in the field.