‘Rafael Nadal match is the best 18th birthday present,’ jokes Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid

Carlos Alcaraz has lined up a ‘dream come true’ match against his idol and compatriot Rafael Nadal which will take place on the day of his 18th birthday.

The Spanish teenager beat Adrian Mannarino in the first round of the Madrid Masters, setting up the clash against the world number two on Wednesday in front of what will be a home crowd for both players.

Alcaraz has already been compared to a young Nadal by some of his opponents, and the 20-time-Grand Slam Champion has recently praised the youngsters ability saying he will ‘probably be one of the best players in the world soon.’

The young Spaniard, currently ranked 120th in the world, has started to amass some records of his own. He ended 2020 as the youngest player in the top 600 and he is the youngest ATP 500 match winner in series history.

In winning his first round clash he became the youngest match winner in tournament history at the Madrid Masters – fittingly surpassing 18-year-old Nadal’s record in 2004.

Alcaraz has admitted to idolising Nadal from a young age, and he says to be able to mark his 18th birthday playing him for the first time, is what dreams are made of.

“It’s the best present for my birthday,” Alcaraz told Tennis Channel, with a laugh.

“It’s a dream come true. To play against Rafa here in Madrid in front of the Spanish crowd, I will never forget this moment and I will learn from him.”

“I don’t know how to describe this feeling now,” he added. “It’s a dream come true.”

“They always say the 18th birthday is special, but it will be even more special to turn 18 playing against one of the best tennis players of all time, and the best for me,” Alcaraz said in his post-match press conference.

“Rafa is one of my childhood idols. It’s going to be very special.”

Nadal has won the Madrid Masters five times and is coming into the tournament on a high after clinching the Barcelona title last week. For Alcaraz, one of the biggest challenges will be controlling the nerves enough to play his own game.

“There will be many comparisons. I’m sure they’ll talk about me and Rafa. They will compare the new generation with the legend,” Alcaraz said.

“But I’ll try to give my best. I have to play my game, try to keep improving and enjoy it. I’ll stick with my feelings on court. I’ll be nervous, but I’ll try to play as relaxed as possible and give my absolute best.”

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