Rafael Nadal failed to reach the penultimate round on Friday after a defeat to his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who beat the Mallorcan for the first time, in three sets (6-2, 1-6, 6-3) after two previous encounters. The result means Nadal has said adios to the Mutua Madrid Open in the quarter-finals for the second consecutive year.
The third seed’s analysis of the match revolved around his focus on the bigger picture. “At the beginning of the match it was a bit complicated because on my two first serves I think he made two breaks, and then I had a couple of chances. But I think that I was out there with the correct attitude and analysing every single morning what I had to do to generate chances for myself and to improve. After that, I was not able to do it as I needed today”, he said.
Nadal, who arrived in the Caja Mágica after five weeks without competing, acknowledged his opponent’s current run of form. “It’s an easy loss to digest in that regard, because we knew what we could expect here, and now because of that, I don’t take away any merit from Carlos. Congratulations to him. He’s playing great, and I wish him the best for the rest of the tournament”.
On the buzz at the tournament about a generational passing of the baton in Spanish tennis, the five-time #MMOPEN champion (2005, 2010, 2013-14 & 2017) was more than happy to call the Murcia native an heir because of his talent. “He’s 19 years old. His birthday was yesterday. Me, I’m 36 years old. Of course it’s a handover. Nothing that’s unexpected, I just accept it naturally with calm and with peace of mind”, he reasoned.
¡Te aplaudimos a rabiar, Rafa! ???@RafaelNadal | @ATPTour_ES | #MMOPEN pic.twitter.com/rvuCtfgp8Z
— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 6, 2022
The ATP No.4 weighed up his appearance at the twentieth edition of the Masters 1000 in the Spanish capital. “I’ve had better days, I’ve had worse days. But it has not been a disaster in any case. I think that I’ve competed with the correct attitude. I’ve played two, two-and-a-half hours, nearly three, in I think three matches, this is a positive outcome“, he pointed out.
Nadal was also self-critical of his performance and spoke of improvements for upcoming events. “Just trying to improve the capacity to react, and in that sense, I’m conscious that I have to improve my speed and going in and out of the court to be more dynamic, to of course be able to read the match, and for my legs to follow me”, he said.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion was clear about the fact that, after five weeks out of action with a fractured rib, he knows what he has to do to achieve his goal at Roland Garros. “I’ve been through all these experiences during my tennis career unfortunately plenty of times, and I know how the process goes. I tell you, honestly, my only dream is to be in Paris healthy enough and physically good enough to compete at the highest level possible”, he explained.
Asked about Alcaraz’s chances for the rest of the tournament, with the man from Murcia facing Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Saturday, Nadal says he can go all the way. “Carlos can definitely win. It’s true that he cannot have the downside that he had in the second set, talking about today’s match. When adrenaline goes up, he’s practically unstoppable. It’s his way of playing, and in that sense I think he has the level to be able to beat anyone in the world”, he closed.