APRIL 21 - MAY 4, 2025

Rublev ends Alcaraz’s dream in the Caja Mágica

Andrey Rublev managed to do something today that was long forgotten by the Manolo Santana Stadium. Since the day of his 18th birthday, before he was the great player we all know today, Carlos Alcaraz had not tasted defeat on the Caja Magica clay. With a sensational performance, muscling the ball around the centre court, the world No. 8 had his way with the home favourite, ending his campaign for a third straight trophy at the tournament.

Fernando Vicente’s understudy produced one of the most notable wins of his career, sinking the tournament’s defending champion 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Mutua Madrid Open semifinal. After claiming the Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo last season, revealing himself to be a contender on the biggest clay stages, Rublev is now knocking on another big door. The altitude of Madrid adds a sting in the tail of his shots and his performance on Wednesday will send out a warning in the locker room.

“I think the serve saved me a lot of times today,” Rublev said. “I think the key was I was completely calm the whole match. I did not say one word, even if I was losing. That was the key and I was able to serve even better near the end. In the beginning, I was not serving that well but little by little, after set one, I served better and better and finished really well.”

Despite the result, the match provided Alcaraz with an opportunity. Since a muscle injury in his right forearm brought his season to a halt, forcing him to delay his return to clay, the Murcia native had not taken on any of the tour’s Top 10 players. On Wednesday, he faced his first true test since returning. The Spaniard’s fitness was more than up to the demands of playing the world No. 8, he responded and an intense battle ensued.

Rublev is a player who now demands respect from any opponent. The pupil of Fernando Vicente, one of the most intense strikers of a ball on the ATP Tour, took a quickfire match to Alcaraz. Aggression and short points were the staple, and the man from Murcia was forced to deploy his forehand more than at any other point in the tournament. If Alcaraz needed to challenge his reflexes and the resistance of his biggest weapon, there are few players better than Andrey to put them to the test.

Alcaraz leaves the Mutua Madrid Open having equalled the longest win streak in the history of the tournament. The Murcia native matched Rafael Nadal’s 14 victories at the event between 2013 and 2015, consolidating himself as one of the biggest names on the Caja Magica clay.

Rublev arrived in the Spanish capital in a rut after four straight defeats, but he can now safely say he is back. Andrey is in the semi-finals of the event having only dropped one set in the Caja Magica, where he has deployed a brand of first-strike tennis that Alcaraz was unable to find an answer to.

“You start to think of how good everything is, then for six weeks I was not winning at all. So it is better to not think at all,” Rublev said of his recent form. “That it is just a moment and it happens to everyone. Everyone has been through these moments and the most important thing is to keep working and keep improving.”

After one of the best wins on clay of his career, Rublev still has another milestone within reach: becoming one of the few active players with multiple ATP Masters 1000 crowns. The world No. 8 will now face Argentina’s Francisco Cerúndolo or the American Taylor Fritz in the semi-finals, guaranteeing fireworks as we reach the sharp end of the draw.