Alcaraz, on his 19th birthday, gives himself a pass to the quarterfinals and a duel with Nadal

Carlos Alcaraz celebrated his nineteenth birthday with an elaborate and hard-fought victory against Britain’s Cameron Norrie, which took him to the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open and the long-awaited duel for the public and organization, with Rafael Nadal (6-4, 6- 7(4) and 6-3).

The perspective predicted with optimism by the followers as soon as the configuration of the table was drawn has come out to ask for it. A duel of generations in the quarterfinals and an eventual clash of the winner in the semifinals against the number one in the world, Novak Djokovic, who also survives in the event.

The teacher against the student; the young versus the elder, the present versus the future…a face-to-face event full of repercussions, ideal for the tournament.

The situation that awaits on Friday at the Caja Mágica will not be new. Nadal and Alcaraz have already met twice. The first on this very stage. In the second round of last year when the Murcian only had good references for the first steps taken on the circuit. But he was beyond the top hundred in the world. That game was a gift for Alcaraz, who came of age in the duel against his idol.

"It will be a very difficult match. He (Alcaraz) is better than me today and with a very good dynamic and I am aware of what is there. I am realistic although I am going to try. But today he is better than me. He has that energy of the moment. And in that sense he starts with an advantage although I will do everything he can to win. The important thing for me is not who is better on Friday but in three weeks (Roland Garros) and that is my goal"Nadal thinks.

The pupil of Juan Carlos Ferrero had already given the growth spurt when he faced Nadal again. He was in full boil already. And Nadal erected as the best of all time with his twenty-first Grand Slam under his arm. It was also in a Masters 1000, in Indian Wells. An epic duel whipped by the wind that the Balearic pulled forward, in three sets. The effort cost him the costal fissure from which he has just come out and which conditions him, still, for the duel against the Murcian.

Everything is open in the quarterfinal that Carlos Alcaraz managed to reach after leaving behind Cameron Norrie, a solid player who bothered his opponent all the time. The two victories obtained months ago by the Spaniard, on hard court, against the Briton of South African origin and raised in New Zealand were not a reference.

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He is a rocky player, with boards. Settled in eleventh place in the ranking. Only two behind the Spanish. And with baggage. In fact, this year he won Delray Beach and was a finalist in Acapulco. Merits that broaden a history with the Indian Wells Masters 1000 and the Los Cabos tournament that he achieved in 2021.

At times Norrie took the Spaniard to the limit, who was above all irregular. Without continuity and with dropper brilliance. He gave the feeling that Cameron Norrie would be another rival down the road. But he got a response. After winning the first set with an air of formality, he got tangled up later, in the second set. He lost his serve, he recovered it but it was like towing and Norrie grew. He reached the end of the tie break where the British did not forgive.

Alcaraz took the defeat of the set as an affront and came out with momentum in the third set. She broke early and consolidated to take a 2-0 lead. He did not lose the distance or the imbalance and achieved the goal after almost three hours of a sealed match with a double fault in the British serve, who was fired.

It cost Alcaraz to add his twenty-fifth victory of the season to face Nadal. Only the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and the Russian Andrey Rublev are up to him in terms of wins. The victory against Norrie puts him in the quarterfinals. Third in a Masters 1000 so far this season. Which he came to in Indian Wells when he advanced to the semi-final, and then in Miami, where he won.

The Murcian arrived in Madrid as champion in Barcelona. A trophy that he added to those of Miami and Rio in this 2022 and to that of Umag, in the past year. He will have the expected gift, a face to face with Nadal. And he will not be in a night session, as before. In prime time, a duel in the sun.

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