Rafael Nadal will look to raise his level at the Rome Masters after his quarter-final defeat at Madrid last week. The 21-time Major winner returned to action for the first time since Indian Wells, recovered from a rib injury and started his clay court season at Caja Magica.
As in previous years, Rafa was unable to fight for the trophy in front of the home fans. Lost to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in 2 hours 28 minutes.
Nadal did not talk about his injury after the match, instead praising his opponent and saying he needs to level up in the coming weeks to get a chance at Roland Garros.
Rafa wasn’t expecting much in the comeback tournament in Madrid, realizing that he would need to work hard on his game in the coming weeks to prepare for the second Major game of the season.
Carlos proved too strong for his idol at Caja Magica, coming back with nearly 40 winners and four breaks out of five opportunities. Rafa won three comeback games in the first two sets, but it wasn’t enough to see him after losing his power in the tiebreak.
Alcaraz started the game with an early timeout and Nadal got his fourth timeout chance after his opponent made a double mistake for 1. Rafa failed to take home the third game and was broken for the second time in a row.
Carlos served well and secured another comeback match at 4-2 to increase the advantage and serve for the opener. A junior held it to zero in game eight with the serve winner to make 6-2 in 47 minutes.
Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Masters:
Rafael Nadal lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Masters quarterfinals. Alcaraz saved three timeouts in the second game of the second set and lost a support in the next game with an ankle injury.
Nadal was the only player on the field for the remainder of the set, serving well and leading a 5-1 lead by winning breaks in the fourth and sixth games. Rafa went to zero in game seven and finished the set and was the favourite as he entered the tiebreak.
But Carlos had other plans to take a bathroom break and start all over again. He scored three timeouts 2-1 with a junior cross-court backhand winner, becoming the first player to gain the advantage.
He held it to confirm the lead at 30 in the fifth game and secured another comfortable grip for the score at 5-2. Rafa extended the action in game eight before Carlos signed the deal with an incredible forehand winner next in the line to advance to the semi-finals.
“I have to admit defeat, I can’t talk about my foot or my injuries today. I need to improve the game, be more dynamic and read the game better. I need to analyze my performance and understand what I need to improve. He has more chances in Rome and Paris.
I need to regain momentum and speed and hit the ball harder. Losing is never easy, but you must show determination and aim higher,” said Rafael Nadal.