Beating Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic from one day to the next in the same tournament is something that very few players have achieved throughout the careers of these two great tennis legends. And one of them is Carlos Alcarazwho consummated the feat this Saturday at the stadium that bears the name of another myth, Manolo Santana, by beating the number one in the world in a fantastic match that lasted three hours and 35 minutes and was decided in an exciting tiebreaker: 6-7 (5), 7-5 and 7-6 (5). Nalbandian (Madrid 2007, hard court), Roddick (Dubai 2008), Davidenko (Shanghai 2009) and Federer (ATP Finals 2010) have done it before. Nobody else. None on land and no one under 20 years of age like the Murcian, who is 19 and two days old. This Sunday (18:30, La 1 and Movistar) he will play the final against the defending champion, Alexander Zverev, who eliminated Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“It has been a game to enjoy, despite the tension and being in the semi-finals in Madrid, I have enjoyed it. Until the last point I have released more than one smile. Playing against the number one here in Madrid, with this atmosphere, is incredible. You win with heart and head. I don’t mind saying it out loud, my grandfather always told me, ‘head, heart and balls'”, said Carlitos, even with the adrenaline through the roof on the packed track of the Caja Mágica. With good anger, Djokovic praised him in the press room, in a speech lasting a couple of minutes: “For someone his age to play with such maturity and courage, it’s impressive. He deserved the victory.” Only his compatriot Filip Krajinovic, who was 18 years old when he beat him in Belgrade 12 years ago, had beaten him earlier. Alcaraz is also the youngest to beat the ranking leader since Nadal, who beat Federer on his 19th birthday in the semi-finals at Roland Garros. Carlos competed hard, with his right ankle bandaged and reinforced with a tape due to his tripping in Friday’s game. Proof of this is that he added 51 winners and also 57 unforced errors. With that deployment he became the youngest finalist in Mutua history.
The truth is that he came out to bite from the start and, as he did against Nadal, he broke Djokovic’s first serve. That was the only bad turn with the Balkan’s serve, who from then on won 21 points in a row with him. In addition, he took almost everything from Carlos, who did not compete with the necessary intention when it was his turn to return. He was somewhat conservative, he gave the feeling that he let some games go by. In this way, he withstood the pressure, as he could, with many seconds, until in the eighth, Novak leveled the score with soft and high balls that choked the Spaniard. In the tiebreaker, he brushed the feat after being 5-1 down and shortening to 6-5 thanks to an ace and a backhand slouch. But Djokovic did not capsize and celebrated the victory in the first set with such rage and challenging attitude that the public reprimanded him with whistles.
A step forward
Charly needed to take a step forward, especially with the drive, and serve better to avoid the deep and placed returns of his rival. He got both and played from power to power against the winner of 20 Grand Slams. He also improved the rest. And his second break opportunity came, masterfully cleared by Djokovic, with three stupendous serves. The drop shots (a resource very much from the genius of Belgrade, by the way), which he had not used too much in previous games, gave Alcaraz a very good performance this time and raised the public’s euphoria, the same one who had mostly supported Nadal on Friday. At 4-4, the boy saved a break point and celebrated 5-4 in a big way. Immediately afterwards, Nole made two big mistakes. He recovered well he saved his serve and threatened that of the El Palmar prodigy, who resisted and then had a 0-40, three set points. He took advantage of the second to score an excellent point after another drop and the subsequent one against the Serb.
The dynamics of the match began to be more favorable for Alcaraz, because he found stability in his service turns and continued to receive Djokovic’s with greater substance., who came from running a lot, especially forward, in the second round. On the net, he lost almost every battle. And it was as difficult for him to solve his services as it was to hinder those of Carlos, slightly annoyed with his battered ankle, although he had his chance with 3-3 in the electronic. He had successfully defended four break chances before being presented with the daunting task of saving a match point against a grown opponent who spurred on the fans to give him even more energy. He solved it with a direct serve and then he alternated hits from the baseline with more mistakes on the court, but he went ahead 5-5. He also 6-6 before the final tie-break. The Serbian had a 71.4% effectiveness rate in that fate (20-8) during his career and Alcaraz was also able to beat that. With a right-hand winner that left Djokovic cold, he accomplished the most difficult yet, his most resounding letter of introduction if there was someone who had not noticed that he was already there. And if nothing goes wrong, it will be for many years and with many successes. Because he can with everything and everyone. Right now there is no one to stop him.
Results of the Mutua Madrid Open ATP