Rafael Nadal has surpassed Roger Federer for match wins at a single grand slam after defeating Jordan Thompson in the first round at the French Open.

Nadal won 6-2 6-2 6-2 against the world number 82 on Monday, as he bids for a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros.

The 35-year-old, 21-time grand slam champion has recorded 106 victories from 109 matches, excluding walkovers, at the French Open, only losing to Robin Soderling (2008) and Novak Djokovic (2015 and 2021).

Nadal's remarkable form in Paris means that he has now overtaken fellow great Roger Federer when it comes to winning matches at one of the majors.

Federer has tallied up 105 wins at Wimbledon, which the Swiss has won on eight occasions, last doing so in 2017.

Nadal, one of only three players to have previously won the French Open without losing a single set, will face wild card Corentin Moutet in round two, after the Frenchman defeated Stan Wawrinka – the 2015 champion – 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-3.

Rafael Nadal cruised through his first-round match against Jordan Thompson to make a strong start to his French Open campaign.

Nadal is in the hunt for a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros and he turned in a dominant display on Monday, winning 6-2 6-2 6-2 to progress with ease.

It took Nadal a little over two hours to see off his opponent on Court Philippe-Chatrier and claim a 24th win of what is already proving to be a wonderful season.

Nadal, seeded fifth, controlled the match throughout, breaking twice in the first set, which he sealed at the first time of asking.

Thompson, the world number 82, conceded serve again at the start of the second set, and he was left hanging over the net in despair when Nadal turned defence into attack to deny the 28-year-old holding in his next service game.

A deft drop shot saw Thompson recover but Nadal was clinical when chances to break came, and he took all three on offer in the second set, though the Australian also grasped his only chance to do so.

Thompson salvaged the first three break points in set three but Nadal would not be denied, and he nosed into a 3-2 lead before breaking again to serve out for the match.

A stray shot into the net from Thompson wrapped up the win as Nadal – one of only three players to have previously won the French Open without losing a single set – made an emphatic start.

Data Slam: Nadal's incredible Roland Garros record

Nadal is the only player to have won the same grand slam title 10+ times, and of the 109 matches he has now played at Roland Garros (excluding walkovers), the 35-year-old has lost just three – once against Robin Soderling (2008) and twice to Novak Djokovic (2015, 2021).

Thompson, who made 29 unforced errors, seemed frustrated at his own performance, but he was taking on a true great of the game.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 27/21
Thompson – 14/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 1/0
Thompson – 5/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/11
Thompson – 1/2

Novak Djokovic returns to the grand slam arena, Carlos Alcaraz is threatening to follow in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal, and Iga Swiatek is suddenly unstoppable.

The French Open is rich in promise as the Roland Garros clay courts are swept in anticipation of the greats of tennis stepping out to begin their campaigns.

It has been the women's draw that has looked the most wide open in recent seasons, yet this year it is hard to look beyond Swiatek; however, the men's title battle promises to provide a sensational battle.

Here, Stats Perform assesses the contenders for the two main trophies: the Coupe des Mousquetaires and the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.


KID INTERRUPTS G.O.A.T. RACE

Nadal took full advantage of Djokovic and Roger Federer being absent from the Australian Open, carrying off his 21st grand slam title to go top of the men's all-time list, one ahead of those two great rivals.

Federer is again missing, rehabbing after knee surgery, and the likelihood is he has played his final major already, but Djokovic is emphatically back. His confidence is surging once more, having taken a knock amid the drama of his deportation from Australia in January and being frozen out of the Indian Wells and Miami events due to the United States' COVID-19 rules.

A semi-final run in Madrid, where he lost a three-set monster to Alcaraz, was followed by Djokovic carrying off the Rome title for a sixth time when he saw off Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

Djokovic turns 35 on Sunday, as main-draw action gets under way in Paris, but he is the defending champion and firmly believes he can succeed again.

Assessing his prospects for Paris, Djokovic said after his Rome triumph: "With rankings and the way I've been playing in the last few weeks, I would rate myself as one of the favourites. I don't obviously spend too much time thinking who's going to win it or who might have the best chance. I always think about myself.

"I go there with the highest ambitions. I really like my chances. Best-of-five, you play every second day. It's a grand slam. It's different. Really, the grand slams are played different. You have to approach it differently. But the way I've been feeling on the court and off the court in the last few weeks, I really think I can go far."

The chief threat to Djokovic could come not from 'King of Clay' Nadal, but from the 13-time champion's fellow Spaniard, 19-year-old Alcaraz.

Bidding to become the first teenage winner of the men's title since Nadal, also 19, triumphed for the first time in 2005, Alcaraz arrives in Paris with four titles already secured this year, including three on clay in Rio, Barcelona and Madrid. The other title came on hardcourt at the Masters 1000 event in Miami, and Alcaraz has rocketed from 32nd at the start of the year to number six in the world rankings.

Many expect his grand slam haul to reach double digits, just like the Big Three he has grown up watching and learning from. The first slam must come somewhere, and it might well come in Paris in a fortnight's time.

Don't discount Nadal, but his form has been a shade unconvincing since coming back from a rib injury, while Tsitsipas looks the next most likely after winning on clay in Monte Carlo and finishing runner-up to Djokovic in Rome. The Greek has unfinished business in Paris, after the heartache of losing last year's final from two sets up.

 

IGA TO PLEASE? POLE GOES FROM SHOCK WINNER TO FIRM FAVOURITE

The first thing to point out is that the French Open women's singles title has been won by eight different players in the last eight years.

Iga Swiatek was a surprise champion in 2020, at the tournament that was delayed until the Paris autumn due to the pandemic. She was ousted by Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals last year but returns on a roll, having won an incredible five consecutive tournaments.

The 20-year-old has won 38 of the last 39 sets she has contested, the odd one out going against her on a tie-break, and her winning streak has reached 28 matches. Since Ash Barty retired, nobody has been able to lay much of a glove on Swiatek.

If she wins the French Open, that run will reach 35 matches, equalling the longest run in the 2000s, previously achieved by Venus Williams during a glory run that saw her win events including Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and US Open in the year 2000.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur has been spoken of as a possible challenger to Swiatek, but she was swatted away 6-2 6-2 by the youngster in the Rome final last weekend.

So who challenges the favourite? Even those who have been there and done that struggle to look beyond Swiatek. According to Martina Navratilova: "You can’t be any hotter than she is right now."

Navratilova told the WTA website: "She looks pretty unbeatable on any surface, particularly the clay now."

The last player to beat Swiatek was Jelena Ostapenko, in Dubai. Ostapenko, a surprise 2017 French Open champion, had a sizzling spell of form in February but has gone off the boil since. It might take someone of her hard-hitting nature to knock Swiatek out of her stride, though, so if Ostapenko can navigate the early rounds she becomes a real contender. The Latvian's career record against Swiatek? An impressive 3-0.

Who else? Simona Halep's coaching tie-up with Patrick Mouratoglou – Serena Williams' former coach of long-standing – has raised eyebrows and now it might be time for it to raise her results level too. Halep has won in Paris before, in 2018, so don't count her out.

Aryna Sabalenka, Sakkari, Paula Badosa. Such players come into the mix if Swiatek slips up, but there has been scant sign of that happening.

Rafael Nadal believes he can win a 14th French Open title despite other players arriving at Roland Garros in better condition, as he labelled the venue the "most important" place in his tennis career.

Nadal won a record 21st grand slam title when he recovered from two-sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling Australian Open final in January, and has won 13 of the last 17 editions of the year's second slam.

However, Nadal admitted he was "living with an injury" after falling to a third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov at the Internazionali d'Italia earlier this month, and will need to overcome a tough draw to build on his fine record in Paris, with Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz both on his side of the bracket.

Ahead of his first-round clash with Australia's Jordan Thompson, Nadal insisted that while he was not the favourite to triumph at Roland Garros, he hoped to replicate his performance at the year's opening grand slam in order to give himself a chance.

"I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am, and I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport," Nadal said.

"And here I am in Roland Garros, another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.

"Today, it looks difficult and there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, that is true today. But you never know what can happen in the next couple of days.

"The same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance, and here is no different. Things can change quick, and the only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens."

 

Pressed on the effects of the foot injury which troubled him in Rome, Nadal said he is feeling better, but maintained it was a case of managing, rather than curing, the pain.

"What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices," he added. "I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better.

"The pain is there always. It's not going to disappear now. It's about if the pain is high and strong enough to allow me to play with real chances [of winning] or not.

"But in my case, is something that I live every day, so it's nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. 

"I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. And if I didn't believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here."

Meanwhile, the stars appear to have aligned for Nadal, with his beloved Real Madrid facing Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 just a short journey across Paris at the Stade de France.

Nadal, a known supporter of Los Blancos who requested not to play at the same time as their semi-final win over Manchester City while competing at the Madrid Open earlier this month, revealed he has already made plans to attend the conveniently located contest. 

"Well, I am here to play Roland Garros more than anything else. But of course, I have my tickets already," he smiled.

Novak Djokovic is banking on experience being a telling factor after the defending champion was handed a daunting draw at the French Open.

To reach another final, Djokovic may have to get past 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last eight and in-form teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

Djokovic described Alcaraz's rise to prominence as "a quantum leap", with the 19-year-old from Murcia having hurtled from 32nd in the world rankings at the start of the year to number six now.

Ahead of 35th birthday celebrations on Sunday, Djokovic is relieved to be back at a grand slam after being deported from Australia in January due to his stance on COVID-19 vaccinations.

He was also prevented from playing the Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, meaning his season has been heavily disrupted.

Ahead of a first-round clash with Yoshihito Nishioka in Paris, Djokovic can be seen to be in good physical shape and strong form, having won the Internazionali d'Italia title in Rome last week for a sixth time.

The bunching of Nadal, Djokovic and Alcaraz, widely considered the three most likely winners, in one side of the draw, caused a stir on Thursday.

Speaking 24 hours later, Djokovic described it as "a very tough top half", before assessing the qualities of Nadal, who has been battling injuries recently, and the fast-rising Alcaraz.

"Nadal always has to be right at the top, because of his records particularly in this tournament," Djokovic told a news conference.

"Then you have Alcaraz that obviously is the story of men's tennis in the last four or five months with a big reason. He's had some tremendous leaps forward on rankings and the results that he's been achieving are phenomenal for someone of his age."

Alcaraz has won a tour-leading four titles in 2022, including Masters 1000 events in Miami and Madrid, and Djokovic said: "He has made a quantum jump really forward in the last five, six months."

Djokovic and Alcaraz practised together on Friday on Court Philippe Chatrier, where they could be battling it out for real in two weeks' time.

The Serbian, one behind Nadal's record of 21 grand slam titles, added: "I feel I am always in that contention to fight for any grand slam trophy. I believe in my own abilities to get far and to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies in the world of tennis.

"As a defending champion of course more so, to believe I can do it again. Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goose bumps and motivation to try to replicate that.

"I think that experience of being on the tour for such a long time helps [me] to know how to spend energy on the court match after match, bring out the right intensity, manage everything that happens off the court, as well, and peak at the right time."

Alcaraz has achieved all his title success in best-of-three tennis so far, so winning over the longer distance in a slam is the next challenge. This is where Djokovic has arguably been at his strongest.

"In best-of-five, obviously things are different," Djokovic said. "A grand slam I think awakens so much motivation and emotions in a tennis player.

"It's the dream of many tennis players to win a grand slam. That's why you cannot underestimate anyone and probably not compare the performances of those players on any other tournament with the potential performance here in a slam."

Roger Federer hopes to replicate fellow tennis great Rafael Nadal's "incredibly inspiring" recovery from injury when he makes his own comeback from knee surgery.

Nadal suffered from a recurring foot problem last season but returned to secure a record 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, moving ahead of Federer and Novak Djokovic in the men's all-time list.

Federer has been out of action since losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year, where he sustained another problem with his knee and subsequently underwent a third surgery in the space of 18 months.

The Swiss is yet to put a timeframe on his full ATP Tour return, although he is scheduled to play at the Laver Cup in September before playing the Swiss Indoors Basel event in his home city in October.

Federer, who turns 41 in August, referenced Nadal as he expressed his hopes to emulate the Spaniard's 20-match winning streak that he embarked on when returning from injury this season.

"It's incredibly inspiring when someone comes back from massive health problems," Federer told Caminada Magazin.

"Rafa and I talk on the phone from time to time, we talk a lot. I knew he wasn't doing great, but when he made it I was really happy for him. The effort is immense."

 

As for Federer's recovery, the world number 46 detailed the struggles he has to go through just to make it onto the court.

"As with a car, you have to turn a thousand screws until the engine runs smoothly," he added. "Today, mobilisation, stretching, and a warm-up in the morning take about 45 minutes. Then we drive to the plant. There follows a warm-up on the pitch, half an hour. 

"After that I eat, stretch, strengthen my ankles with tapes, then warm up again, do gymnastics and explosive speed exercises. Before I finally play, I took care of my body for two and a half hours.

"I don't post many pictures of the strenuous training because I was always convinced that it was a matter of course. Everyone trains hard. 

"I swore to myself that by the end of my career I wouldn't be completely broken. Later I would like to go skiing with the children and play football with my colleagues. That's why I'm doing rehab now – not just for tennis. Also for life after your career."

Asked when he will make his comeback, Federer added: "I can't even think that far. I'm waiting for the doctors' okay. I'm ready to give it my all again. 

"I feel like a racehorse scratching its stall and wanting to race. In the summer I hope to be able to hit the ground running. 

"I'm looking forward to coming home in the evening after the tough day of training and being completely exhausted."

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz are all on the same half of the draw at the French Open, while women's world number one Iga Swiatek will face a qualifier in the first round at Roland Garros.

Djokovic, who will make his Grand Slam return having missed the Australian Open, opens in Paris against Yoshihito Nishioka, while record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal meets Australia's Jordan Thompson.

The veteran pair of Djokovic and Nadal could challenge each other in the quarter-finals in the top half of the draw, where Alcaraz could come across world number three Alexander Zverev.

Alcaraz faces a qualifier in the first round and has won 16 of his last 17 matches, with the one blemish on his remarkable run coming against Sebastian Korda, who the Spaniard could meet in the third round.

Daniil Medvedev will have to get past Argentine Facundo Bagnis in the first round, while Lorenzo Musetti stands in the way of last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev and Tsitsipas are joined in the wide-open bottom half of the draw by Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev, who meet home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon respectively.

In the women's draw, 2020 champion Swiatek comes in as favourite and will look to continue her 28-match winning streak when she faces a qualifier in the first round, as does US Open winner Emma Raducanu.

The Brit will then take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Wang Xinyu before a potential last-16 meeting with Ons Jabeur, who first has to get past Poland's Magda Linette.

Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova – who has a first-round clash with France's Tessah Andrianjafitrimo – could set up a quarter-final meeting with Swiatek, but the Pole may have to get past Simona Halep in the fourth round first.

Defending champion Barbora Krejcikova starts against Diane Parry, while Naomi Osaka was drawn against the in-form Amanda Anisimova, who beat the Japanese in the third round of the Australian Open.

Golf's world number two, Jon Rahm, believes teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz can benefit from having Rafael Nadal around as his burgeoning tennis career progresses.

Nineteen-year-old Spaniard Alcaraz became the first tennis player to beat both Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament on clay, on his way to becoming the youngest ever winner at the Madrid Open earlier in May.

Alcaraz has won three of the past four tournaments he has entered, including the Miami Open, moving to number six in the ATP world rankings and emerging as a serious challenger for the French Open, which starts on Sunday.

When asked about Alcaraz's rapid ascent, Rahm said Alcaraz can still learn a lot from 21-time grand slam winner Nadal.

"I thought you were talking about a golfer. I was just confused," Rahm joked, speaking ahead of this week's US PGA Championship. "I've heard about what he's done, and I've seen the results. Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis.

"He's got some big shoes to fill, because historically Spain has had great tennis players, and obviously with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.

"You have a great reference who's done it right in front of you, so I'm sure he can pick his brain and learn. He's got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion like many others have been."

Following a tie for 27th at the Masters, Rahm returned to action earlier in May, winning the Mexico Open.

The lingering dynamic this weekend at Southern Hills will be the fact Phil Mickelson will not be there to defend his title, following his controversial remarks about the Saudi-backed breakaway golf tour.

Rahm and Mickelson share the same alma mater and agency, and the former continued to defend the six-time major winner.

"Phil has got to do what Phil has got to do," Rahm said. "He's a good friend of mine. I can't remember the last time a major champion didn't defend a title.

"But he's got to do what's best for him. That's all I can say. I can't say it makes me unhappy. As long as he's doing what is best for him, I can't truly say I'm unhappy.

"I would have liked to see him defend. I know he's played good here in the past. But again, he's got to do what he's got to do."

Rafael Nadal conceded he is "living with an injury" after suffering his earliest Internazionali d'Italia exit since 2008 against Denis Shapovalov, but still hopes to compete at the French Open later this month.

Record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal fell to a 1-6 7-5 6-2 defeat to Shapovalov in the third round in Rome on Thursday after struggling with a foot injury throughout the match.

The 35-year-old could be seen regularly limping and battling through the pain, but his resistance ultimately wilted as the Canadian surged to victory after winning 12 straight points from 2-2 in the deciding set.

Nadal, speaking after the defeat, detailed the struggles he is having on a day-to-day basis as injury problems continue to hamper him.

"I am not injured. I am living with an injury. My day-by-day is difficult," he told reporters.

"I am trying hard but of course, it's difficult to accept the situation at times. A lot of days I can't practice the proper way.

"It started halfway through the second set and it was unplayable for me. [But] I don't want to take away credit from Denis that he deserves."

Asked about his chances of being fit for the French Open, which starts on Sunday, May 22 at Roland Garros, the Spaniard responded: "[It's] still the goal, in one week and a couple of days. I'll still keep dreaming.

"Maybe in two days, things are better, the things that I have on my foot. It's true that during Roland Garros I'm going to have my doctor with me – that sometimes helps."

Defeat to Shapovalov also meant Nadal will drop to number five in the world rankings, leaving him facing a potential meeting with the top seed in the quarter-finals of the French Open, which he has won a record 13 times.

 

Rafael Nadal suffered his earliest Internazionali d'Italia exit since 2008 at the hands of Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, but Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarter-finals. 

'King of Clay' Nadal fell to a 1-6 7-5 6-2 defeat to Shapovalov in the third round in Rome, with the Canadian surging to victory after winning 12 straight points from 2-2 in the deciding set. 

The legendary Spaniard stormed through the first set thanks to a series of brilliant returns, but his opponent dominated at the net in the second to take the match the distance. 

Shapovalov then flipped the narrative on its head by winning 14 of a possible 22 return points to set up a quarter-final meeting with Casper Ruud, who beat Jenson Brooksby 6-3 6-4. 

Djokovic is one win away from retaining his status as world number one after taking just 75 minutes to see off three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-2. 

After a lengthy spell out injured, Wawrinka ended a 15-month wait for an ATP Tour victory at Foro Italico before the Serbian brought his run to an end. 

"It is great to see Stan back and winning. He won two tough matches. You can see he is still not physically where he wants to be. But, nevertheless, he is Stan Wawrinka and he can hurt you if you give him time," Djokovic said. 

"I managed to do well from the beginning. I really moved him around the court and held my serve comfortably except for that loss of my serve in the second set." 

Felix Auger-Aliassime stands between Djokovic and the number one spot after overcoming lucky loser Marcos Giron 6-3 6-2. 

In the other half of the draw, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner will play out an entertaining quarter-final after they beat Karen Khachano and Filip Krajinovic respectively. 

Alexander Zverev, the defeated finalist in Madrid last week, beat Alex De Minaur 6-3 7-6 (7-5) and will battle Cristian Garin for a place in the final four.

Rafael Nadal wants the comparisons between himself and Carlos Alcaraz to stop as he hopes his compatriot will not come under too much pressure.

Alcaraz defeated Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev to win the Madrid Open last week.

The 19-year-old has a 28-3 record for the 2022 season and has risen to world number six in the ATP rankings, having won four tournaments this year.

His incredible form has drawn plenty of comparisons to Nadal, who was a teenager when he burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s.

Nadal bounced back from his defeat to Alcaraz by defeating John Isner at the Internazionali d'Italia on Wednesday.

The 21-time grand slam champion is going for an 11th title in Rome, but he could not avoid fielding questions about Alcaraz in his post-match news conference.

"I do not know. And I won't be able to talk every day about who will be or who is stronger that day, will I? I forgot what I was like," Nadal replied when asked who he thought was a better player at the age of 19 out of himself and Alcaraz.

 

"The only thing we can do is enjoy the career of an extraordinary player like Carlos. But stop comparing him to me. 

"If he manages to win 25 grand slams, it will be fantastic for him and for our country. But let him enjoy his personal career. I have enjoyed my personal career.

"Probably in 2005, I wouldn't have said about myself that I was great, but I thought I was good enough. That's all. Different moments. Different careers. A different way of approaching things because times are changing.

"But let's enjoy it. We don't [need to] put further pressure on him. Don't ask me every time, because I'll always tell you the same thing. 

"It's good for our sport. Honestly, in a selfish way, as a viewer, to have someone like Carlos who will enjoy their career for the next few years is fantastic.

"But now I'm still playing. I am focused on trying to do the things I have to do. That's all."

Rafael Nadal accepts he will have to perform better than he did against John Isner if he is to overcome "dangerous" opponent Denis Shapovalov at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The world number four's bid for an 11th title in Rome got off to a strong start on Wednesday as he saw off big-serving Isner 6-3 6-1 in a time of 76 minutes.

Isner twice missed the chance to break Nadal in the seventh game of the opening set and the Spaniard took control from that point on in the second-round match.

Nadal, who has won this tournament in three of the past four years, identified that hold of serve as a key point in the contest.

"The beginning of the match was not good for me," he said in his on-court interview. "He had some chances on the return and had two break points. 

"He had two not difficult balls so I was in his hands at that moment. I was lucky that he missed those shots and then I was able to break. 

"Then the match changed, of course. With the first set on the board, and having the break in the first game of the second set, everything changed."

Nadal will now face Shapovalov in a repeat of last year's last-16 encounter, which the record 21-time grand slam winner edged in three sets.

He recovered from a set down and saved two match points before beating the Canadian 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) en route to lifting the title in the Italian capital.

And Nadal, who was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz on clay in last week's Madrid Open quarter-final, is not expecting an easy task this time around.

"Last year was a joke, the match that I saved here against him," said Nadal of his next opponent. "I was super lucky. I know how dangerous he is, I need to play well. 

"I need to play better than today, but after a while without being on court it is another victory and I have the chance again to play against one of the best players in the world.

"I need to build things again after a tough stoppage and that's what I am trying now. I just need to stay with the right attitude, and let's see if I am able to make that happen."

Alexander Zverev also booked his place in the last 16 on Wednesday thanks to a 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory over Sebastian Baez.

Last week's Madrid Open runner-up was given a tough time of things by in-form Baez, but ultimately came through unscathed to stay on course for more silverware.

Rafael Nadal conceded Spanish tennis fans have a new star to support after Carlos Alcaraz continued his remarkable season with success at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz breezed past Alexander Zverev in just 62 minutes in the Madrid final on Sunday as he became the second-youngest player to win two ATP Masters 1000 titles, after also triumphing in Miami in March.

The 19-year-old is also the youngest five-time ATP Tour winner since Nadal won seven titles by the same age in 2004-05.

Alcaraz had already made more history en route to the final in the Spanish capital as he achieved a new feat, becoming the first player to defeat Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches.

Record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal acknowledged that Alcaraz's meteoric rise to success has caused somewhat of a changing of the guard within Spanish tennis.

"First, I think he is young, he is new and all the new things are much more interesting than older things. Without a doubt, when you see a new car, it always looks better," Nadal told reporters.

"When you see a new phone, they always look better than the old ones. It's something that is normal in this life. I can't complain at all about that.

"At the same time, I am happy to have somebody like him from my country achieving all the things that he is achieving."

Alcaraz opted to sit out of the Internazionali d'Italia this week to recover from an ankle injury, with the upcoming French Open at Roland Garros his next target for more success.

Nadal has had his injury problems as well, only recently returning from a rib injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks, while he continues to struggle with foot issues.

"Of course, at my age, when you start having more problems than what you can manage, of course it is tough," 35-year-old Nadal added. 

"Body issues, pains, you can manage that. The problem is when you start to feel that with all the things that are going through your body, you can't be competitive enough to fight for the things that really keep exciting you."

For now, though, Nadal remains content with how he is competing as he seeks improvements in Rome, where he faces either John Isner or Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match.

"I like what I do, honestly. I am not playing anymore for things outside of my happiness and for things outside of my personal motivation," he continued.

"For the moment I am happy. It is true that I went through, again, a tough period of time. But I am here to enjoy and to give myself a chance to play well here in Rome.

"I need to keep improving. In terms of movement, in terms of being more fitter, in terms of reading again the game. In general terms, [it was] not a negative week in Madrid, even if the tournament is probably the most difficult for me."

Rafael Nadal acknowledged Carlos Alcaraz can be considered a "replacement" after losing to his teenage rival at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz is one of the most exciting rising stars on the ATP Tour and only enhanced his growing status with a three-set defeat of the 'King of Clay' in the Spanish capital to set up a mouth-watering semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic.

In doing so, Alcaraz became the first teenager to beat Nadal on clay and he has now won five straight matches against top-10 opponents.

Given both men hail from Spain, the comparisons are sure to be made and Nadal can see why many would see Alcaraz as the many to take up the mantle.

"It is evident that he is a replacement because one is 19 years old and the other 36, if it is from today or not I don't know, we'll see," Nadal said.

"Above all I'm happy for him, he has been better than me in several facets of the game and I need to improve, as I have been saying."

Nadal, though, says nothing changes in his determination to extend his record of 21 major titles for a male player when he attempts to win a 14th French Open title – his 13 also representing a benchmark tally.

"[There is] nothing that will not enter into logic and is accepted naturally, calmly and with the certainty that there is a path to follow for another two and a half weeks, to arrive with real options to generate opportunities for myself," he added.

"In that sense it is an easy defeat to digest, although I do not take any credit from Carlos.

"The first thing is to congratulate the rival but from there I have to do my self-criticism and understand what needs to be improved to arrive with options next week and especially in two. 

"I have to improve and it improves with games, you have to follow the path with the right determination, you have to analyse things and look forward, there is a goal ahead that overcomes anything."

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