MADRID: It wasn’t too long ago that Rafael Nadal was handing Carlos Alcaraz a PlayStation as the boy’s prize at a local tennis tournament in Spain.
Now the Spanish great is about to play against the promising youngster in the second round of the Madrid Open.
The 17-year-old Alcaraz defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-0 on Monday to set up the dream matchup against the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
“It will be a dream come through to play against Rafa here,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve wanted to play against him since I was a kid.”
Alcaraz, who is competing in Madrid on a wild card, turned pro in 2018 and has been considered by many as Spain’s successor to 34-year-old Nadal. They practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.
He won the under-12 title in Madrid in 2015, and two years later reached the final in the under-16 event. A few years ago, Alcaraz and other kids received PlayStations from Nadal after competing in a tournament.
In other early round matches, Daniel Evans defeated Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (7-9), 6-2, and Danis Shapovalov got past Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-3.
But Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov fell in the first round after losing in three sets to South African Lloyd Harris 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5). Harris will now face Australia’s 22-year-old Alex de Minaur in round two.
Fabio Fognini, who was disqualified from the Barcelona Open because of foul language, defeated Spanish qualifier Carlos Taberner 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3 to set up an all-Italian clash against Matteo Berrettini in the second round.
John Isner defeated Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), while fellow American Reilly Opelka lost to Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-4. Other US players who won were Marcos Giron and Tommy Paul.
In the women’s draw, world number one Ashleigh Barty edged the battle of the French Open champions as she beat Poland’s Iga Swiatek to reach the quarter-finals.
Both players will be among the favourites at the French Open next month but Barty’s credentials gained an extra boost in Madrid, where she defeated Swiatek 7-5, 6-4.
The Australian will now face three-time Madrid champion Petra Kvitova for a place in the semis, after Kvitova beat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
Eighth seed Belinda Bencic is also through after Ons Jabeur retired with a thigh injury when trailing 7-6 (7-2), 4-3, while Spaniard Paula Badosa got past Anastasija Sevastova 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-0.
Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2021