(AP) – Five-time champion Rafael Nadal cruised into the third round of the Madrid Open with a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday. He awaits the winner of Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin and 14th seed Jannik Sinner.
Rafa was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.
The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match against his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Rafa.
After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was marred by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.
Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.
“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Rafa said on Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”
“Today was a match against Carlos, who has enormous potential and only needs a little time. He is a great tennis player and has clear things and a very good values, which is something that this society needs.”