Carlos Alcaraz is the most recent Mutua Madrid Open champion. In 2022, he produced an astonishing performance, managing to see off both Rafa Nadal, in the quarter-finals, and Novak Djokovic, in the semis. He also defeated two-time champion Alexander Zverev in the final. Having just turned 19, he showed off the game that would take him to world No. 1 a few months later.
In this interview, the Murcia native, who has played twice in the Caja Mágica, takes a look back at his experiences on the Madrid clay from his debut here in 2021 to his crowning moment at the event last season when he claimed the ATP Masters 1000 trophy.
Question. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Mutua Madrid Open?
Carlos Alcaraz. I have so many memories of the tournament. I won the Under-12 competition there, which I was thrilled about. Then they gave me a wildcard to play in 2021, and I faced Rafa for the first time that year in the Caja Mágica. In 2022 I had one of the best weeks of my career, winning the title after several incredible matches.
What did it mean to you to win the title last year?
CA. It was a very big boost for the rest of the season, which ended in spectacular fashion. I had just won Miami and Barcelona, and winning the title in Madrid was the consolidation of everything that came before.
What does it take to beat Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament?
CA. I don’t know (laughs). All I’m sure of is that the only way to do it is to play your best tennis throughout the match!
In the final, you beat two-time champion Zverev in just one hour. What are your memories of that day?
CA. The day started badly because I woke up with an ankle problem. I’d twisted it in the match against Rafa, but it was worse. Also, I had a blister on my foot that was infected, and I could barely walk. It was really bothering me a lot. I worked with my doctor and physio to fix it, and to be able to get over all that and win the title was spectacular.
What advice did Ferrero – who won here in 2003 – give you before the final?
To stay calm and enjoy the final and the support of the fans. And to play with enjoyment, be myself and keep playing the tennis that had got me to that match.
How did you celebrate your Mutua Madrid Open title?
For the final, I had a lot of family and friends with me, people from Murcia who came to Madrid that day to see me. At the end, after all the obligations, we went and had dinner to celebrate the win.
You are a member of a select group of MMOPEN champions who have also been world number 1. What does that tell you? (Only Zverev and Nalbandian have won without being No. 1)
It’s a privilege to be a member of that group. It speaks to the difficulty of winning in Madrid, and to everything the players that have done it have achieved. It’s one of the most difficult tournaments on tour, as you can see from the names on the trophy.
Just one year earlier, in 2021, you won your first ATP Masters 1000 match. How did you go from that to winning the title in such a short period of time?
CA. I always say that my progress has been very quick. In just one year I went from winning my first match at a Masters 1000 to winning my first title at a tournament in that category. Things have gone well for me, I’ve worked hard to be in that position, but I still have so much to learn and to do. I’ve only just joined the tour, even though everything has gone faster than normal.
You went from losing to Nadal as an 18th birthday present, to earning the title as a gift to yourself a year later. How were you feeling on those two occasions in the Caja Mágica?
Equally excited, but I felt different because of the way I approached it. In any case, both matches were very special. Playing Rafa is always different, doing so at home is even more special.
Which is the most special match you have played to date in Madrid?
Although I could say last year’s final against Zverev, the two matches against Rafa and Djokovic were very special to me.
What’s the most spectacular thing about playing in the Manolo Santana Stadium?
The court bears Manolo’s name, and that makes it a unique place because of everything he represented in our sport. And, of course, the most spectacular thing, without a doubt, is the fans.
What’s your favourite thing about the fans in Madrid?
CA. The unconditional support from the people. Playing at home is incomparable and gives you very valuable help. It would’ve been very difficult to win the title last year without the love of the fans in Madrid.