Rafael Nadal began his tender for a sixth Madrid Open title in simple fashion on Wednesday, easing past youngster Carlos Alcaraz 6-1, 6-2 to succeed in the final 16. Nadal, who returned to number two on the earth final week after his thrilling win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona last, strolled past his 18-year-old opponent in the Spanish capital. Ranked 120 on the earth, Alcaraz walked out to fans singing ‘happy birthday’ — and later received a cake — as he celebrated his birthday playing against his childhood idol.
Alcaraz battled bravely and even broke his compatriot Nadal’s serve in the second one set but used to be predictably overwhelmed by probably the most game’s greats in a match that lasted one hour and 17 minutes.
“The victory in Barcelona helped me a lot. Things have got better since,” said Nadal, reserving special compliment for his vanquished opponent.
“He has a large number of potential. He is young and a good guy. He already has a great level of tennis today, but I in point of fact imagine that he is going to be an implausible player in the close future.”
“I wish him the entire very best,” added Nadal. “(As a) Spanish player and Spanish (tennis) fan, I in point of fact imagine that we need somebody like him, and it’s great to have him here.”
Nadal will take on Alexei Popyrin in the next round after the Australian knocked out rising star Jannik Sinner 7-6 (7/5), 6-2.
Clay king Nadal will have already got his eyes on a record-extending 14th vinaigrette Open triumph, where victory this year would also edge him ahead of Roger Federer’s 20 major titles and to the top of the all-time men’s list.
Earlier second seed Daniil Medvedev, returning to the circuit after testing positive for Covid-19 in mid-April, picked up his first win on clay for two years when he came back from a set down to defeat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
The Russian has at all times struggled on clay.
In four attempts, he has failed to receive past the first round of the vinaigrette Open. Nor has he won a match in Rome while this used to be his first win in Madrid in his third appearance.
“I love clay,” he said sarcastically into the camera at the end of the match.
In complete, the 2021 Australian Open finalist has only 11 wins on the surface even supposing he’s going to have the chance to make that 12 when he is taking on Cristian Garin in the final 16.
Fifth seed Alexander Zverev swept past Kei Nishikori in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.
World number nine Diego Schwartzman used to be dumped out by Aslan Karatsev 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. In-form Russian Karatsev will take on Alexander Bublik in the next round.
Barty faces surprise package Badosa
In the women’s draw Ashleigh Barty will take on Paula Badosa in the semi-finals after beating Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 on Wednesday.
World number one Barty is chasing her fourth singles title of the year after her triumph in Stuttgart 10 days ago.
In the final four she faces the woman who knocked her out in the quarter-finals in Charleston in early April.
On Wednesday, the Australian came out on top against two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, winner of the Madrid tournament in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
The match appeared settled when Barty surged 3-0 ahead in the deciding set.
Kvitova broke back in game five to shut to 3-2. But, after saving two break points, she missing her serve for a second time in the set in game six.
Barty then saved three break points on her way to going 5-2 up and held again two games later to see out the match.
Wildcard Badosa became the first Spanish woman in the tournament’s 12-year history to make the semis with her 6-4, 7-5 win over eighth seed Belinda Bencic.
The 23-year-old’s win over the world number 11 used to be her third against a player in the top 20 following her victories over Bencic and Barty in her run to the semi-finals in Charleston.
Badosa kissed the clay court in celebration of a win that will shoot the world number 62 up the WTA rankings.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Karolina Muchova 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/2) and awaits Aryna Sabalenka or Elise Mertens for a spot in the last.
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