Nadal brushes aside Alcaraz at Madrid Open; Barty, Sabalenka reach semis
Madrid, May 5 (EFE).- Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal outclassed promising teenager Carlos Alcaraz in Wednesday second-round action at the Madrid Open, dominating his countryman from start to finish in a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday, said after his first-round victory at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event that the chance to face his childhood idol on clay at the Caja Magica was a dream come true and the best possible birthday present.
But the 120th-ranked wildcard appeared overwhelmed by the situation and gave away far too many points with unforced errors.
Alcaraz lost his serve in the opening game and then required medical attention for an abdominal issue he sustained after jumping high to retrieve a high-bouncing backhand overhead by Nadal.
Although the teenager was able to play on and showed glimpses of his potential midway through the second set, he simply was unable to cope with the weight of Nadal’s ground strokes and the punishing pace of the rallies.
Despite the easy victory, the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion was full of praise for his young opponent.
“He has a lot of potential. He’s young and (a) good guy,” the 34-year-old Nadal said. “He already has a great level of tennis today, but I really believe that he’s going to be a fantastic player in the near future.”
Next up for the world No. 2 in the round of 16 will be another talented young player, 21-year-old Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who leveraged strong serving to upset 19-year-old Italian rising star Jannik Sinner.
Also advancing to the round of 16 were Russian world No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, who snapped a six-match ATP Tour-level losing streak on clay when he rallied to defeat Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 4-6, 6-4, 6-2; and Greek world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who routed France’s Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-2.
In women’s quarterfinal action on Wednesday, Australian world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty struggled to find her rhythm against Czech Petra Kvitova but eventually pulled away in the third set for a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
The 12th-ranked Kvitova made a slew of unforced errors in the opening set but forced a decider after breaking Barty’s serve early in the second.
The Australian, however, used her underrated defense to secure a pair of service breaks in the final set and then claim victory in an hour and 48 minutes.
Barty will next take on 62nd-ranked Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa, who is having a breakthrough season and on Wednesday reached her first semifinal of a WTA 1000 event by defeating 11th-ranked Swiss Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5.
The other Madrid Open women’s semifinal will pit seventh-ranked Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Sabalenka has been impressive throughout the tournament and remained on fire in a 6-1, 4-0 ret. victory over an injured Elise Mertens, while Pavlyuchenkova edged Czech Karolina Muchova 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2).
The Madrid Open is a key tune-up event for tennis’ lone clay-court major championship, the French Open, which gets under way on May 30. EFE