This matchup will be the one everyone will have been waiting for when the draw came out last week. Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will play for the third time in their career but this time many believe Alcaraz has a legitimate chance of picking up the upset – including bookmakers who have this as a near 50-50.
That belief for many will have been strengthened by Nadal’s struggles against David Goffin, a match he needed over three hours to pick up a 6-1 5-7 7-6 victory. He was a set and break up in this one but ended up having to save match points before coming out on top. “At the end of the day you’re suffering in the match. I always said it many, many times. You have to learn how to live with these kind of moments, and also to enjoy this kind of suffering,” he said. “It’s what we work for, for thrilling moments.”
Alcaraz is now 25-3 on the year with three titles including two on clay. He is on a seven match winning streak right now, most recently beating Cameron Norrie in three sets. The level of improvement from the 19 year-old over the past year has been unreal with losses to the likes of Jamie Munar and Marin Cilic coming at this same time last year.
Much like their Miami meeting, this one does feel like the momentum does favour Alcaraz. The one difference here would seem that physically, Alcaraz is better prepared given Nadal’s time out and low recovery time from a long match where he was far from his best. The youngster also looks to have the mental toughness required to hold his nerve on the big stages. Nadal dropped just three games when the two met here last year but now may not even be the favourite on one of his favourite courts on the tour.
Prediction – Carlos Alcaraz in three sets