The words ‘Nadal’ and ‘Djokovic’ were trending on social media through most of Saturday night and Sunday morning. Generally, when such a thing happens, it hints at the discussion of one overtaking the other in yet another tennis GOAT (Greatest Of All Time, for the uninitiated) argument.
This time though, the tennis greats were not on the winning side. Thanks to a certain Carlos Alcaraz – the 19-year-old who became the first player ever to beat both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at one clay tournament. Defeating two of the greatest the game has seen on day one and day two as a 19-year-old is one way to usher in a new birth year.
Yet that remains the most basic of stats in the Spaniard’s age-defying achievements in this era of men’s tennis where a 34, 35, and (depending on what form he’s in when he returns) 40-year-old dominate proceedings.
Djokovic converted just one of six break points but still walked away from Madrid with a positive outlook on his game.
“He held his nerves very well. For somebody of his age to play so maturely and courageously is impressive. He deserved to win,” said the Serb of Alcaraz.
“I had a lot of chances, and it was a fantastic match. Great battle. But I am definitely disappointed with not being able to use my chances.
“I definitely played very good tennis – the best that I have played this year.”
Asked if he sees a limit to what he can achieve, Alcaraz said: “I don’t think so. Tomorrow I will go for the final as I did in Miami. I’m really happy to be able to play a second Masters 1000 final.”
“I would say that I feel ready to compete against them (the top players) in every single tournament, in every single surface,” added the Miami champion.
Milestones at 19 years and three days
- Alcaraz is expected to become the new World No 6 when the rankings are updated on Monday. But just a fortnight ago, he became the youngest player since Nadal in 2005 to break into the Top 10, and the first teenager since Andy Murray in 2007 to break that mark.
- He became the first teenager, ever, to beat Nadal on clay when he won 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinal on Friday. Before the match, Nadal was 20-0 against teenagers on the red dirt.
- Reaching the semi-final a day after his 19th birthday made Alcaraz the youngest player to reach the final four at Madrid, breaking Denis Shapovalov’s record from 2018, when the Canadian was 19 years and a month old. Nadal meanwhile was 19 years and five months old when he first reached the semifinal in the Spanish capital in 2005.
- The win over Djokovic in the semifinal (in their first meeting) gave Alcaraz his seventh win over a Top 10 player this season - the most for any player on the ATP Tour in 2022.
Alcaraz's wins over Top 10 opponents in 2022
| Novak Djokovic (1)||Semi-final|| Madrid Masters|
| Rafael Nadal (4)||Quarterfinal|| Madrid Masters|
| Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)|| Quarterfinal|| Barcelona Open|
| Casper Ruud (8)||Final|| Miami Masters|
| Hubert Hurkacz (10)||Semi-final|| Miami Masters|
| Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)|| Fourth round|| Miami Masters|
| Matteo Berrettini (6)||Quarterfinal|| Rio Open|
- Alcaraz is now the youngest among 12 players to beat both Nadal and Djokovic at the same event, the fifth to do it on consecutive days, and the only one to do it on clay.
Players to beat Djokovic & Nadal at same event
| Carlos Alcaraz*|| Madrid Masters 2022|
| Daniil Medvedev|| ATP Finals 2020|
| Dominic Thiem|| ATP Finals 2020|
| Juan Martin del Potro|| Rio Olympics 2016|
| Stan Wawrinka|| Australian Open 2014|
| Roger Federer*|| ATP Finals 2010|
| Ivan Ljubicic|| Indian Wells 2010|
| Robin Soderling|| ATP Finals 2009|
| Nikolay Davydenko*|| Shanghai Masters 2009|
| Andy Roddick*|| Dubai Open 2008|
| David Ferrer|| ATP Finals 2007|
| David Nalbandian*|| Madrid Masters 2008 (indoor hard)|
- He’s now the youngest finalist at the Madrid Open at 19 years and 3 days, breaking Nadal’s record from 2005 when he was 19 years and 5 months. He’s also the second youngest to reach a second Masters event final after Nadal.
- He’s also the youngest player to beat a World No 1 since Nadal beat Federer at the 2005 French Open.
- Alcaraz’s three-hour 36 minute 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) win over Djokovic in the semi-final was the second longest best-of-three-set match on the ATP Tour this season.
- The Spain teen became the second-youngest player to defeat Djokovic, behind only Filip Krajinovic, 18, at 2010 Belgrade (6-4 ret)
- Alcaraz passed Stefanos Tsitsipas as the youngest player to beat Nadal and Djokovic – regardless of setting. Tsitsipas beat Djokovic at 2018 Toronto as a 19-year-old and Nadal at 2019 Madrid as a 20-year-old.
- Earlier in April 2022, won Miami title to become youngest men’s champion in 37-year tournament history and 3rd youngest ATP Masters 1000 champion in series history (285 events since 1990).
Reporting inputs from AFP