At the height of his powers, Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal was indeed an unstoppable force. Winning competition after competition, Grand Slam after Grand Slam, the Spaniard quickly became one of the greatest tennis players to have ever lived and his tale inspired millions around the globe and across his home country of Spain. One of those inspired was the winner of the men’s edition of the 2022 Madrid Open, Carlos Alcaraz. After beating second seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1, the 19-year-old mentioned that it was watching Rafa win this particular title as he was growing up that inspired him and led him to where he is today. On his road to victory, Alcaraz defeated Nadal himself and the world no. 1 Novak Djokovic. He scripted history by becoming the first player since 2007 to beat three top five players in the same tournament.
After winning in Miami in March, the 19-year-old is the second-youngest player to win two Masters 1000 titles with his 62-minute victory. Rafael Nadal won titles at Monte Carlo and Rome when he was 18 years old in 2005. But what inspired Alcaraz the most was that the 2005 Madrid Masters was the first tournament he ever saw and that was won by his countryman, Nadal. “Watching Rafa lift this trophy gave me a lot of power to work hard for this moment,” Alcaraz said after the match. “It is a great moment for me. It is the first tournament I watched, so lifting the trophy today is so emotional.”
The Spaniard also said it was the best week of his life. “It feels great to be able to beat these players. To beat two of the best players in history and then Zverev, the World No. 3. He is a great player. I would say this is the best week of my life. I am 19 years old, which I think is the key to be able to play long and tough matches in a row. I am feeling great physically,” he added.
Carlos Alcaraz also became the first player to defeat both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in a clay-court tournament. It’s the first time a player has defeated three of the top five players at a Masters 1000 event since David Nalbandian in Madrid in 2007. When the tournament was played on hard in the Spanish capital, Nalbandian defeated Djokovic, Nadal, and Roger Federer.
To reach the final, Alcaraz defeated countryman Rafael Nadal in two hours and 28 minutes before beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a three-hour, 36-minute marathon. The 19-year-old also rolled his ankle in their quarter-final encounter against Nadal, but showed no indications of injury against Zverev in his shortest match of the week. “I want to congratulate Carlitos. Right now you are the best player in the world,” Zverev said during the trophy ceremony. “It is great for tennis that we have such a new superstar that is going to win so many Grand Slams, that is going to be World No. 1 and I think is going to win this tournament many more times.”