It wasn’t too long ago that Rafael Nadal was handing Carlos Alcaraz a PlayStation as the boy’s prize at a local tennis tournament in Spain.
Now the Spanish great is about to play versus the promising youngster in the second round of the Madrid Open.
The 17-year-old Alcaraz defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-0 on Monday to set up the “dream” matchup against the 20-time grand slam champion.
Alcaraz will face his idol on the Magic Box center court on Wednesday, his birthday.
“It will be a dream come true to play against Rafa here,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve wanted to play against him since I was a kid. There will be no better way than while celebrating my 18th birthday.”
Alcaraz, who is competing in Madrid on a wild card, turned pro in 2018 and has been considered by many as Spain’s successor to 34-year-old Nadal.
They practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.
He obtained the under-12 title in Madrid in 2015, and two years later reached the final in the under-16 event. A few years ago, Alcaraz and other kids received PlayStations from Nadal after competing in a tournament.
“I’ll try to be as relaxed as possible,” the 120th-ranked Alcaraz said. “I’ll try to play my game and to keep learning and keep having fun.”
In other early round matches, Daniel Evans beat Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 6-2, and Danis Shapovalov got past Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-3.
Fabio Fognini, who was disqualified from the Barcelona Open because of foul language, defeated Spanish qualifier Carlos Taberner 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3 to set up an all-Italian clash versus Matteo Berrettini in the second round.
John Isner defeated Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 7-6 (6), while fellow American Reilly Opelka lost to Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-4. Other U.S. players who won were Marcos Giron and Tommy Paul.
In the women’s draw, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty defeated French Open champion Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-4 in a round-of-16 match, while Spaniard Paula Badosa got past Anastasija Sevastova 6-7 (0), 7-6 (3), 6-0. Petra Kvitova defeated Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while eighth-seeded Belinda Bencic advanced after Ons Jabeur retired.