Carlos Alcaraz withstood an injury scare and a fightback from Rafael Nadal to beat his countryman and set up a semi-final with Novak Djokovic at the Madrid Open.

The 19-year-old had lost his previous two encounters with Nadal, but he came out on top 6-2 1-6 6-3 in Friday's match in the Spanish capital.

It made him the first teenager to beat the record 21-time grand slam winner on clay on the ATP Tour.

Alcaraz has now won his last five matches against top-10 opponents and will next take on world number one Djokovic, who earlier defeated Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-4, for a place in Sunday's final.

Nadal, who had won his previous 25 matches against fellow Spaniards, struggled to handle the intensity of his opponent's game in a first set that saw him lose serve three times.

Alcaraz struck 19 winners in the opening set in total and took three games in a row to edge ahead, though the youngster lost his footing at 1-1 in the second set and required a medical time-out.

After having his ankle strapped up, Alcaraz struggled to match his levels from the first set and Nadal – competing in a record-extending 99th Masters 1000 quarter-final – went through the gears, taking 20 of the final 22 points to level the contest.

That gave Nadal momentum heading into the deciding set, yet it was Alcaraz who earned the only break of serve in the fourth game with some powerful hitting before seeing out a statement victory.

Rafael Nadal saved four match points before seeing off David Goffin 6-3 5-7 7-6 (11-9) to book his place in the Madrid Open quarter-finals.

A five-time champion in the Spanish capital, Nadal is looking to match Novak Djokovic's career record of 37 ATP Masters 1000 titles this week.

Returning to action for the first time since losing to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final, after which he discovered he had a stress fracture of a rib, Nadal was taken all the way by Goffin.

Indeed, the Belgian qualifier won four straight games from 5-3 down in the second set to force a decider, but he saw four opportunities to advance to the quarter-finals go begging.

Nadal subsequently prevailed to reach his 99th Masters 1000 quarter-final, setting up a last-eight showdown with teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

Birthday boy Alcaraz, who turned 19 on Thursday, celebrated with a hard-earned 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory over Britain's Cameron Norrie.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev reached his fifth successive quarter-final at this event after beating Lorenzo Musetti, who retired with a thigh injury shortly after losing the opening set, at 6-3 1-0 down.

Next up for Zverev is Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Rotterdam Open champion, who is targeting a first clay-court Masters 1000 semi-final. Auger-Aliassime won 90 per cent of points on first serve in a commanding 6-1 6-2 victory over Jannik Sinner.

Stefanos Tsitsipas also produced a strong-serving display in his 6-3 6-4 triumph over Grigor Dimitrov. Last season’s French Open runner-up hit 10 aces along the way.

The fourth seed set up a showdown with Andrey Rublev, who had eight aces as he overcame Dan Evans 7-6 (9-7) 7-5.

Meanwhile, Hubert Hurkacz will play Djokovic in the last eight after hitting 16 aces in his 7-5 6-3 win over Dusan Lajovic. Djokovic's much-anticipated clash with Andy Murray was called off, with the Briton unwell, handing his Serbian rival a walkover.

David Goffin was impressive in his 6-4 6-2 win against Botic van de Zandschulp – earning a third round fixture against Rafael Nadal on the clay courts of the Madrid Open.

The Belgian was stronger both on serve and in the return game, winning 66 per cent of his service points compared to Van de Zandschulp's 53 per cent, and 47 per cent of his return points to the Dutchman's 34 per cent.

Goffin will face Nadal next for a place in the quarter-finals as the Spaniard searches for his first Madrid crown since 2017.

In a clash between two of the world's top-25 players, Italy's Jannik Sinner came out on top 6-4 6-1 against Australia's Alex de Minaur.

After a tight first set, which featured four consecutive breaks of serve, Sinner found another gear in the second.

He improved his service points from 53 per cent up to 80 per cent, allowing no break point opportunities for the Aussie and converting the two break points he created for himself.

Fourth seed Stefano Tsitsipas was rock-solid against France's Lucas Pouille, taking it 6-3 6-4.

The Greek won 94 per cent of his successful first serves and allowed just one break point – instantly breaking back to-love the following game.

Rafael Nadal requested that his opening match at the Madrid Open does not clash with his beloved Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, according to tournament director Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal, who has won the Madrid Open on five occasions, will face Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic in the round of 32 on Wednesday, the same day Los Blancos bid to overturn a 4-3 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's team at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 21-time grand slam winner is known to be an avid supporter of Madrid and was invited to take an "honorary kick-off" before Carlo Ancelotti's team wrapped up their 35th league title with a 4-0 win over Espanyol at the weekend.

Lopez confirmed Nadal's request to Spanish radio network Cadena SER on Tuesday.

"Nadal asked us that when Madrid played the Champions League semi-finals that we not play him," Lopez said.

"He likes to play during the day, so that the ball bounces higher. There are [Spanish] tennis players who are not from Madrid. David Ferrer is not from Madrid. Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez are from Barcelona, Sergi Bruguera is very much from Barcelona… it's very hard to be an anti-Madridista!"

Real Madrid have been eliminated from each of their previous five Champions League semi-finals when losing the first leg – however, Los Blancos have progressed from two of their last three knockout ties when losing the opening match (the 2015-16 quarter-final against Wolfsburg and this season's last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain).

Madrid have won the European Cup/Champions League on a record 13 occasions, also finishing as runners-up three times, and Nadal will hope to have a good view if Los Blancos seal a 17th final appearance on Wednesday.

 

Rafael Nadal has said that Carlos Alcaraz can become one of the best players in the world, ahead of a potential meeting between the two Spaniards at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz has enjoyed an impressive season to date, having recently added the Barcelona Open to the titles won in Rio de Janeiro and Miami already in 2022.

Following on from that triumph in Catalonia, Alcaraz – who turns 19 on Thursday – became the youngest male player to break into the top 10 since Nadal 17 years ago.

However, one of his three defeats in 2022 came at the hands of Nadal in the semi-finals of Indian Wells in March, with the contest lasting over three hours.

Nadal eventually secured the win in California, 6-4 4-6 6-3, before losing the final to Taylor Fritz.

Alcaraz and Nadal are set to collide once again in Madrid should they both come through their second and third-round matches.

Speaking to Eurosport, Nadal lavished praise on his fellow Spaniard, outlining his belief that Alcaraz can have a very successful career, drawing comparisons with his own illustrious career.

"As everybody knows it's amazing," Nadal said. "He's a big candidate to win a lot of grand slams and become the number one player in the world.

"What he is doing is fantastic so well done for him and I wish him all the very best. He is doing a lot of things similar to me. He is young, he has the passion and the energy. He has every single thing to become a huge star.

"I'm like a Spanish spectator, personally I'm happy to have someone like him to stay on the tour for a long time and achieve a lot of things."

Nadal also gave an update on his own fitness, with his participation in Madrid following a hip injury part of his preparation to try and be ready for the upcoming French Open.

"I'm feeling good in terms of the hip," he said. "That's recovered so now is the time to try to recover the tennis and physical performance. That takes some time so I am here to try to be better and better every day.

"I have been out for more than a month and a half. The amount of practices I've had are just a few, and in this case, I need to be humble enough and accept that it's a process that I need to go through.

"Of course, the big goal now is to try and be ready for the French Open in three weeks."

Alcaraz last week revealed he has taken inspiration from facing Nadal, saying to Spanish talk show El Hormiguero: "I learned about the fighting spirit, of never giving up.

"From that match against him [at Indian Wells] I get the fighting spirit, never give up and fight until the last ball."

Ukrainian former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky has questioned Rafael Nadal after the world number four said Russian and Belarusian players should not be banned from playing at Wimbledon.

The All England Club, along with the Lawn Tennis Association, confirmed last month that Russian and Belarusian players would not be able to feature in their tournaments this year, including Wimbledon.

That decision came in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which was backed by Belarus.

It means that men's world number two and reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, as it stands, will not be competing at the season's third grand slam.

The ATP and WTA both want a rethink of the decision, while Nadal – along with Novak Djokovic – spoke out against the ban. Andy Murray, meanwhile, said he does not support the move, though understands the major's organisers are in a difficult position. 

 

"I think it's very unfair on my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," Nadal told reporters.

"It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war. I'm sorry for them. Wimbledon just took their decision. The government didn't force them to do it.

"Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard."

However, former world number 31 Stakhovsky, who returned to his homeland to aid the resistance to Russia's attack, vehemently disagrees.

On his official Twitter account, Stakhovsy wrote: "@RafaelNadal we competed together... we've played each other on tour.

"Please tell me how it is fair that Ukrainian players cannot return home?

"How it is fair that Ukrainian kids cannot play tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?"

Stakohvsky told Stats Perform in March that he was driven to fight the Russian forces despite having no formal military training, and left his family to do so.

Rafael Nadal has described Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at this year's tournament as "very unfair".

The All England Lawn Tennis Club recently announced that players from the two nations are prohibited from competing in the event following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

World number one Novak Djokovic labelled the decision "crazy", while Billie Jean King and governing bodies the ATP and WTA have also called for a rethink.

Nadal has now joined the ranks of those people questioning the decision, with the 35-year-old saying it is not fair on the players from those countries. 

"I think it's very unfair on my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," Nadal told reporters.

"It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war. I'm sorry for them. Wimbledon just took their decision. The government didn't force them to do it.

"Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard."

Nadal will return to action following a rib injury at the Madrid Open in his homeland and the 21-time grand slam winner accepted that it might not be without difficulties. 

"Talking about the injury, I'm recovered, I feel good," Nadal added.

"Talking about my tennis game and preparations, well, it's a completely different story.

"Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is, very painful, especially the first weeks. I wasn't able to do anything without a lot of difficulties, even to fall asleep because of the pain.

"I have improved compared to when I came here but I still have ups and downs because it's been a long time without being in these kind of situations and it's going to be a difficult week, for sure."

Rafael Nadal remains confident that he will be fully fit in time for this month's French Open, despite still suffering from a "very disabling" rib injury.

The 35-year-old has been sidelined since sustaining a cracked rib during the Indian Wells Masters in March.

However, Nadal confirmed last week he intends to make his return to action on home soil at the Madrid Open next week.

And the Spaniard, who won a record 21st grand slam at the Australian Open in January, expects to be ready for Roland-Garros later this month.

"I have three weeks," he said on Saturday. "I trust that the daily training will help me to get ready.

"Here the demand [in high altitude in Madrid] is maximum, but what can be done is going to be done.

"The most important thing is to be healthy, but I think that going to Paris I'm on time. Three weeks is enough time to get competitive."

He added: "I have trained very little, because the rib is very disabling and also very painful. I had two very bad weeks and afterwards it has been very, very disabling.

"I haven't been able to do practically anything, but it's here, at home, in Madrid."

Thirteen-time French Open winner Nadal will face either Alexander Bublik or Miomir Kecmanovic in the second round of the Madrid Open.

The third seed is on a collision course with highly rated compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals at the Caja Magica.

Carlos Alcaraz has learned never to give up after facing Rafael Nadal, with the pair on a collision course to meet again in next week's Madrid Open quarter-finals.

Alcaraz has enjoyed a hugely impressive season to date, having last week added the Barcelona Open to the titles won in Rio de Janeiro and Miami already in 2022.

Following on from that triumph in Catalonia, Alcaraz – who turns 19 next week – became the youngest male player to break into the top 10 since Nadal 17 years ago.

He boasts a record of 23-3 this year, one of those defeats coming at the hands of Spanish great Nadal in the semi-finals of Indian Wells in March.

That encounter lasted over three hours, with Nadal digging deep in California to prevail 6-4 4-6 6-3, only to lose in the final to Taylor Fritz.

Nadal was clearly troubled by injury during his defeat to Fritz and has subsequently taken a break to recover from a rib problem.

The pair are set to collide once again in Madrid next week should they both come through their second and third-round matches.

Speaking ahead of the draw being made on Friday, Alcaraz revealed he has taken inspiration from facing Nadal, who won a record 21st Grand Slam at the 2022 Australian open.

"I learned about the fighting spirit, of never giving up," the teenager told Spanish talk show El Hormiguero.

"Many people will have also seen the Australian Open match, he was losing and came back almost miraculously.

"From that match against him [at Indian Wells] I get the fighting spirit, never give up and fight until the last ball."

Top seed Novak Djokovic is also in Alcaraz and Nadal's side of the Madrid Open draw, while Andy Murray and Dominic Thiem will meet in the pick of the first-round clashes.

Naomi Osaka believes teen tennis star Carlos Alcaraz has rejuvenated excitement around the ATP Tour, while she labelled Rafael Nadal as an inspiration ahead of the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz needed just 67 minutes to defeat Spanish compatriot Pablo Carreno-Busta 6-3 6-2 at the Barcelona Open last Sunday, claiming his third title of the season after wins in Rio de Janeiro and Miami.

The 18-year-old has surged to a career-high ninth in the world rankings, Alcaraz becoming the youngest player to crack the top 10 since fellow Spaniard Nadal achieved that feat at the same age in 2005.

Coincidentally, Nadal also broke into the top 10 after success on the same day (April 25) at the Barcelona Open and the pair will next compete in Madrid in the ATP 1000 Masters event, which starts on Sunday.

Former women's world number one Osaka revealed she is keen to cast an eye over the duo in the Spanish capital, where she faces a qualifier in the first round, as she hailed the impact Alcaraz has had.

"I feel like he's genuinely made everyone excited about the ATP and I haven't seen that in a very long time," Madrid Open wildcard Osaka said of Alcaraz, who boasts an impressive 23-3 record in the 2022 season.

"I'm not even really thinking about his age, like every time someone brings up his age, I'm like, 'Oh wow, I forget, that's so cool'.

"I think just his game style, just how pumped he is, how I feel like I'm watching him learn with every tournament.

"I don't know what his ranking was last year here, but I've watched almost every tournament that he's played, the US Open when he played [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and just to see the growth I think is really exciting for everyone."

Osaka has won all four of her grand slam titles on hard courts, but the 24-year-old will now search for clay-court success in Madrid.

Japanese Osaka has spent time preparing in Majorca, where she has used 13-time French Open winner Nadal as an inspiration, given his expertise on clay courts.

"I think I stole one of the things that he did and I've been practising it recently," she said of Nadal, who holds the record for most men's grand slam titles with 21 major triumphs to his name.

"It'll either go really good or really bad. There's like no in between. But I think as I've been doing it, it's been going pretty well.

"Honestly I've been wanting to watch the really good clay-court players practice because I feel like I'm the type of person that learns really fast if I see it up close and honestly it's a bit of a waste to have all these really good professional tennis players and not watch them."

Osaka suffered a second-round exit at the Indian Wells Masters in March, impacted by abuse from a heckler in the crowd, but rebounded by making the final in Miami, where she lost to world number one Iga Swiatek.

However, Osaka is looking to use the experience at Indian Wells, where she was reduced to tears by a spectator reportedly shouting "Naomi, you suck", as a learning curve to develop.

"I feel like there are a lot of moments in my career that are like extremely sad for me at the time but I kind of later look back on it and I think to myself, 'Well that really made me grow as a person, and even though I really hated the experience, I'm glad it happened to me'," she added.

"For me, that's one of those moments. I wish it didn't happen, but also I'm glad that it did.

"I feel like it prepared me for a lot of things that may or may not happen, but it's kind of like one of those things you have in your back pocket as experience."

Rafael Nadal plans to make his return from injury in his homeland at the Madrid Open next week.

Nadal has been sidelined since suffering a cracked rib during the Indian Wells Masters last month.

The 21-time grand slam champion on Tuesday revealed he has decided to make his ATP Tour comeback at the Caja Magica.

He posted on social media: "Despite preparation being difficult, I really want to play at home since the opportunities are few.

"[I want] To try to do it in the best possible way. See you in Madrid."

Taylor Fritz consigned Nadal, a five-time champion at the Madrid Open, to his first defeat of the year in the final at Indian Wells.

The Australian Open champion was visibly struggling to breath during that match after sustaining the injury during a semi-final victory over fellow Spaniard and heir apparent Carlos Alcaraz. The 35-year-old's 2022 record so far stands at 20-1.

Nadal's return is set to make his comeback just three weeks before he will be hoping to start his bid to win a 14th French Open title at Roland Garros.

Ash Barty has not ruled out a return to professional tennis, saying "never say never" when asked if she could make a comeback in years to come.

The three-time grand slam winner announced her surprise retirement from the sport on Wednesday, less than two months after her home victory at the Australian Open.

At just 25, Barty is stepping away from the court at the peak of her career, and has teased the idea she could step into another sport entirely.

But speaking on Thursday, the reigning Wimbledon champion did not discount the possibility of returning to tennis down the line.

"You never say never," she said. "But it's a long way off at this stage."

Barty previously played cricket during a sabbatical between 2014 and 2016, and has been linked with a switch to golf in recent years too.

She shut down such suggestions as an immediate option, adding: "[I've] got to try and learn how to hit the middle of the club face before I can think of trying to get on the tour."

Elsewhere, Barty admitted that she would miss the competition of the WTA circuit, while praising fellow Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal for his staying power in the sport.

"I love the competition," she said. "That's what has driven me the most in my career, is that one-on-one competition and the thrill of the fight. I know that I'll miss it 100 per cent.

"But I'll be able to get the adrenaline in different ways. Those ways will remain to be seen. But I know that I've been so fortunate to have so many incredible moments on the court."

Unlike Nadal, Barty is bowing out of tennis early, and she respects the way the 35-year-old Spaniard, who also triumphed at Melbourne Park this year, has been able to stay at the top for the best part of two decades.

She said: "It's been an incredible career. His longevity in the sport has been undeniable. He's been amazing for the sport of tennis. For me as a fan to see him do that over such an extended period has been a pleasure."

Rafael Nadal has been ruled out of action for up to six weeks with a cracked rib suffered during last week's Indian Wells Masters.

The Australian Open champion sustained the injury in his semi-final win against Carlos Alcaraz and visibly struggled to breath during his defeat to Taylor Fritz in the final.

Nadal told reporters that he was "all good" when returning to Spain on Tuesday, but it has now been revealed he has a stress fracture in the third left costal arch.

The timeframe for the Spaniard's recovery is between four and six weeks, which could have a major impact on his preparations for the 2022 French Open.

The second grand slam of the year is scheduled to begin at Roland-Garros on May 22 – around eight weeks' time.

Nadal had won each of his opening 20 matches this calendar year, a run that took him to his second title at Melbourne Park, prior to tasting a shock defeat against Fritz.

And the record 21-time major winner, who endured an injury-plagued 2021, is now facing a battle to be back at peak fitness in time for the French Open.

Providing an update on his personal Twitter page on Tuesday, Nadal posted: "As it turns out, I have a stress crack in one of my ribs and will be out for 4-6 weeks. 

"This is not good news and I did not expect this. I am sunk and sad because after the start of the season I have had such a good time.

"I reached a very important part of the year with very good feelings and good results. 

"But hey, I've always had that fighting and overcoming spirit and what I will do is be patient and work hard after my recovery. Once again thank everyone for the support."

Nadal has won the French Open a record 13 times, with his most recent success in Paris coming in 2020.

He was beaten by eventual champion Novak Djokovic in last year's semi-finals – only his third defeat in 108 matches in the event.

Rafael Nadal is facing new injury concerns, after Taylor Fritz ended his unbeaten streak for 2022 in the Indian Wells Masters final on Sunday.

Having to take a medical timeout during his win in the semi-final against countryman Carlos Alcaraz, the 35-year-old was forced into another injury break against Fritz, before losing 6-3 7-6 (7-5).

Nadal, whose 2021 was halted mid-year due to foot injury after back pain at the start of the season, ultimately rued his inability to fully compete against Fritz.

"I had pain, honestly. I had problems breathing," he said post-match. "I don't know if it's something on the rib, I don't know yet. When I'm breathing, when I'm moving it's like a needle all the time inside. I get dizzy a little bit because it's painful.

"It's a kind of pain that limits me a lot. It's not only about pain, I don't feel very well because [it] affects my breathing."

Nadal's 20-match unbeaten streak for 2022, which saw him claim the Australian Open and Acapulco titles in the process, also came to an end on Sunday. The world number four said the streak ending before coming into the clay season provides particular sadness.

"Honestly, I wanted to make it perfect before clay. [It] has been very, very, very beautiful," Nadal said.

"Honestly, I am sad because the way I was not able to compete. It's tough to have these feelings….but in the final it's very, very ugly. But in sport it's not about talking of the past, we need to talk about today. And today is a difficult day for me. "

Nadal commended Fritz on the victory, however. The 24-year-old claimed his maiden ATP 1000 title despite carrying an ankle injury.

According to the 21-time grand slam winner, it is a sign of things to come from the American, who had to back up from a tough win over Andrey Rublev in the semi-final on Saturday.

"Victories like today help. He played well. He went through some great matches during this week I think, especially yesterday," he said.

"A lot of credit to him on the victory of yesterday. In my opinion, his victory of yesterday is much bigger than his victory of today because he had [a] much tougher opponent in from yesterday.

"He already played great matches in Australia, this year if I'm not wrong, against [Stefanos] Tsitsipas.

"It's obvious that he is improving. With this victory, it's a great start of the season for him. He will have a chance to be very close if not in the top 10 very soon."

Taylor Fritz had never experienced "worse pain in my life before a match" before overcoming an ankle injury to end Rafael Nadal's winning start to the season and win the Indian Wells Masters on Sunday.

The American 20th seed, who has never been further than the fourth round at a major, claimed a breakthrough maiden ATP Masters 1000 title with a 6-3 7-6 (7-5) victory over Nadal in two hours and six minutes.

Fritz, 24, was not sure if he would be able to take his place in Sunday's decider after tweaking his ankle in Saturday's semi-final win over Andrey Rublev which he battled in the lead-up.

The injury was far from ideal preparation coming up against the Spanish fourth seed, who was on a 20-0 run to start 2022 having won January's Australian Open for a record-breaking 21st career major.

"I can't even begin to describe how ridiculous it is that I was able to play how I could play today," Fritz said during his post-match on-court interview. "I've never ever experienced worse pain in my life before a match.

"If I knew it was going to be that bad, I wouldn’t have come out here [beforehand] because I think people saw it. I took a couple of change-of-direction steps and screamed.

"I was trying to act tough as I had cameras on me. It probably looked like I was over-exaggerating the pain with how loud I screamed when I felt it.

"We did a lot of work leading up to the match. I went through a roller-coaster of emotions before the match, from thinking there's no way I could possibly play then to doing so much work on the ankle and going out again hitting on one of the backcourts and being really happy, thinking I can play.

"Really it didn’t affect me out on the court. Unbelievable."

California native Fritz, who reached last year's Indian Wells semi-finals, admitted winning the event was a "childhood dream" and that it did not feel real.

"I'm going to have to hold back tears for every single interview I do and every on-court speech," he said. "This is going to be tough. I'm such a happy crier.

"This is one of those childhood dreams, winning this tournament especially, you never thought would come true. I keep saying 'no way this is real'."

The title is the biggest of Fritz's career to date, triumphing in his first Masters 1000 final, and becoming the first American men's champion at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.

Fritz is also the youngest male champion at the event since Novak Djokovic in 2011 and achieved that by ending Nadal's career-best 20-match win streak, denying him a record-tying 37th ATP Masters 1000 title too.

"I've lost these matches against the big guys my whole life," Fritz said. "It's always felt like they're unbeatable. To do it on the biggest stage, there's no other way. To win a big title, I feel like you've got to beat the best."

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