Beyond the pyrotechnics, generational debates, the curiosity about a possible twist in the story and the punctual result that could occur, the duel between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz in the Indian Wells semifinal (6-4, 4-6 and 6- 3 favorable to the former) was the cotton test. A test of maximum magnitude for the Murcian, who at 18 years of age has been offering more than solid indications that, as professionals and specialists point out, tennis is giving birth to the next great player. At least, to a special, singular, different one. It had been a long time since there had been a similar awakening or that way of breaking the ball that Alcaraz has, who responded to the great test with a great ordeal.
Until now, the boy from Palmar had faced and, in some cases, defeated several high-profile tennis players (Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev…), but the California clash with Nadal represented a definitive scale to calculate without filters where it is, where it is going and if, as it is written, secured and repeated, it has real potential to speed up time and become a serious threat to the the status quo that tennis has maintained since Nadal himself, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic opened a tyrannical cycle more than 15 years ago.
The result was conclusive: today, Alcaraz is ready to compete against anyone, at a level higher than that indicated by his ranking (16th) and enough to put Nadal himself on the ropes, who escaped the trap and clung to the catalog of the trade to avoid a limit situation. The 35-year-old 21-time champion won on points and contained the unleashed rise of his heir, but he showed that he can kick the door at any time. In terms of relief, the Murcian gave an acceleration in the eyes of the whole world and in more than complicated circumstances.
“The second set wasn’t tennis, we just survived,” he referred to the violent gusts of wind that littered the semi-final. But on the track, neither mu. Attitude, attitude and more attitude. “The first time we played [mayo de 2021, en Madrid] It destroyed me, but now I’m closer. I think I’m ready, now I know what my level is. It’s been hard, but I’m happy with the performance. Now I know how to play against these types of players, I feel like I’m already part of this level. I think I’m going to play a lot against Rafa and the best this year”, ventured the young man who dazzles and impacts everyone.
For more than three hours, Alcaraz addressed the king of kings on a first-name basis and drove him to exasperation. Nadal was bothered by the wind – “it was almost unplayable, and the problem is that there is no rule for that” – but even more by the wild attack of his rival. “Carlos has all the shots. He can be very aggressive or defensive because he is super fast. It is difficult to stop him because the quality of his ball is very high. I treated him like he was playing one of the best eight players this year. As for the level, that was my feeling. I watched him play all week and I think his level is top”, X-rayed the man from Manacor.
Although he had starred in several previous balls and continues to nibble early records, the attack against Nadal was the great world presentation of Alcaraz, a jewel that, in the words of the great Spanish icon, “has everything to become a great champion.” For now, this week he will burst into Miami with a very different projection. After what was shown in Indian Wells, tennis suspects that a major blow is coming in the short or medium term. And meanwhile, he goes about his business and warns: “Now I know what I have to do.”
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