In a clash of generations, Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz has overcome injury to defeat his idol Rafael Nadal 6-2 1-6 6-3 in what had all the feel of a changing-of-the-guard moment at the Madrid Open.
The 19-year-old Alcaraz recovered from a bad ankle twist early in the second set to earn his first victory against the 21-time grand slam champion in Friday’s quarter-final.
The youngster, considered by many in Spain as Nadal’s natural successor, will next play his first Madrid final against top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who eased past Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-4.
Watch the latest sport on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
It was Nadal’s first loss to a Spaniard in six years, since being beaten by Fernando Verdasco at the 2016 Australian Open.
Still far from his best form after a six-week injury lay-off, Nadal predicted a hard time keeping up with the energy of Alcaraz – and 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 ankle, losing 20 of the next 22 points as Nadal cruised through the second set.
The match was also interrupted in the second set after a fan became ill in the stands of the Caja Magica centre court.
Nadal is returning after a rib stress fracture he sustained in his semi-final win against Alcaraz in Indian Wells.
His other win against the ninth-ranked Spaniard had come in Madrid last year, when the youngster was just starting to attract everyone’s attention but Alcaraz’s dramatic improvement since then was obvious to everyone.
Three-time Madrid champion Djokovic earlier had little trouble against Hurkacz, the Serb taking advantage of the Polish player’s slow start to take a 3-0 lead. From there, he dominated.