poisoned gift

If I were 10 years younger or if he had arrived 10 years ago, we would be talking about a possible new rivalry. In the end my rivals are Djokovic, Federer, Murray in his day… Rafa Nadal said it this Thursday, after raising four match points to beat Belgian David Goffin (6-3, 5-7 and 7-6 (11) in 3h08)when asked about a possible confrontation against Carlos Alcaraz. Finally, it will take place on Friday (not before 4:00 p.m., La 1 and Movistar) in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, because the kid undid, also with some suffering, the British Cameron Norrie (6-4, 6-7 (4) and 6-3 in 2h39). At the Manolo Santana stadium, the third episode of an Instant Classic will take place between the two stars of Spanish tennis.

It will no longer be a duel of the present against the future, as in 2021, when the Balearic Islands beat the Murcian (6-1 and 6-2), although they are separated by almost 17 years and despite the fact that Nadal was already winning matches on the ATP circuit when Alcaraz was not yet born. Because this time they will be measured face to face, in the top-10 and with a slightly favorable prognosis for the prodigy trained by Juan Carlos Ferrero. That’s how Rafa thinks: “Today, Carlos is better than me. He’s in good shape and I, from being out. He’s very young and has energy. I am clear that he starts with a clear advantage in the match. I’m going to do everything possible to be competitive and try to win.” Alcaraz does not agree: “He’s won here five times and he’s done it all on clay. I’m the new guy and I don’t have to have the pressure of playing against one of the best in history.” The truth is that it is getting closer. A few weeks ago, in the semifinals of Indian Wells, she squeezed the winner of 21 Grand Slams (6-4, 4-6 and 6-3) so much that he ended up with a cracked rib.

A month and a half later, Nadal is capable of winning matches despite the inactivity due to that “disabling” injury, as he describes it, by dint of mystique, like his beloved Real Madrid in the Champions League. One day after vibrating at the Bernabéu with the white team’s comeback against Manchester City, he pulled epic to avoid elimination against a meritorious Goffin, who recalled the one who was seven in the world and runner-up in the ATP Finals in 2017. In the decisive tie-break of the third set, after having lost two match-points in the second, he pulled two ‘Panenka’ drop shots out of his hat, like Benzema’s penalty last week at the Etihad Stadium. Then he left a shadow of doubt: “I go lame many days in my life. I have a chronic and incurable foot injury. I can get up with more problems than the account.”

Djokovic on the horizon

Alcaraz also worked up a sweat to get past the increasingly rocky Norrie, not least because he made 49 unforced errors. But he again exhibited the virtue of turning complicated situations around, as he did after losing the tie-break of the second set, when he started the third with a break that he held until the happy ending, which he celebrated with a cake on the track to commemorate his 19th birthday to the rhythm of the famous Parcheesi song. Nadal will be his poisoned gift. The winner of the derby could be awaited in the semifinals by Djokovic, who went to the quarterfinals thanks to Murray’s resignation due to illness, if the Serbian beats the Polish Hurkacz from 2:00 p.m.

Results of the Mutua Madrid Open ATP

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