Rafael Nadal vs Carlos Alcaraz promises to be a mouth-watering affair
Third Seed and five-time champion Rafael Nadal will face his compatriot and seventh seed Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open on Friday. Nadal beat David Goffin in a grueling three-setter on Thursday while Alcaraz got the better of Cameron Norrie.
Friday’s match is being billed as a battle between the two generations, with Alcaraz already cementing his status as the most promising youngster in world tennis. However, the 19-year old is yet to win against Nadal, who leads their head-to-head 2-0.
On that note, let’s take a look at three crucial factors that might determine the fate of Friday’s blockbuster quarterfinal.
#1 Carlos Alcaraz’ ability to hit through Rafael Nadal with his fierce groundstrokes
The 19-year-old can play really powerful groundstrokes off either wing
Carlos Alcaraz is one of the most powerful hitters in world tennis today and can generate prodigious power with his groundstrokes from the baseline. He can hit well off both wings and will fancy his chances of hitting through Rafael Nadal on the faster clay of Madrid.
However, Nadal has great court coverage and defensive skills and should be able to get to most of Alcaraz’ shots and thereby extend the rallies. Moreover, Nadal himself is well capable of hitting powerful groundstrokes; the Mallorcan hit 35 winners in the match against Goffin.
Still, the relatively fast conditions in Madrid will provide a slight edge to Alcaraz in the baseline exchanges. If Rafael Nadal is to win on Friday, he will have to defend really well, which he usually does.
#2 Drop shots being employed often by both players
Nadal used the drop shot sparingly in the match against Goffin before the tie-break in the final set, which saw him unleash it twice to save match points. Although Alcaraz can be lightning fast on the court, Nadal might want to test the former’s court coverage by playing the drop shot more often on Friday.
It has to be remembered in this context that Rafael Nadal has often rushed to the net in his last two matches in an attempt to shorten the points. He might try to do that against Alcaraz too, but should be wary of the latter’s ability to play wonderful lobs from the baseline.
Moreover, the 19-year-old himself is a great proponent of drop shots and has the ability to play truly sumptuous ones. So Nadal might find himself rushing to the net frequently in the quarterfinals.
#3 Rafael Nadal’s ability to pull the trigger by hitting down-the-line and inside-in forehands
Rafael Nadal’s down-the-line and inside-in forehands might hold the key on Friday
Nadal will definitely look to play his crosscourt backhand, containing a great amount of top spin, with a steep angle to the backhand side of Alcaraz, thereby pushing the latter into one corner of the court. He will then look to pull the trigger by hitting a subsequent down-the-line forehand with a lot of venom behind it.
The above tactic worked to a great extent against Goffin on Thursday and Nadal should re-employ it. Nadal should also look to play his inside-in forehand more often, as it has to travel less distance than the inside-out one and therefore might catch his opponent off-guard.
Nadal cannot afford to be passive in his approach against Alcaraz and will look to mix aggression with caution to wear the young Spaniard down. Nadal should also try to target his compatriot’s weaker second serve and take heart from the fact that Norrie got as many as eight break point opportunities against Alcaraz last night.