ATP

Alcaraz insists Nadal 'not my enemy' as pair battle for world number one

By Sports Desk October 31, 2022

Carlos Alcaraz views fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal as another competitor and "not my enemy", despite the pair's battle for top spot in the world rankings.

The 19-year-old continues to break records at the top table in tennis, becoming the first teenager to be crowned world number one in the Open Era.

Alcaraz, aged just 19 years and 129 days, also set a new benchmark as the youngest number-one ranked male player in the world since rankings were published in 1973.

Those feats came after winning September's US Open, where he joined Arthur Ashe (1968) and Rod Laver (1969) as the only Open Era players to win on their first or second main-draw outing at the tournament.

Now, Alcaraz has Nadal – a record 22-time major winner – chasing him for top spot, though the youngster assures there will never be bad blood between himself and his compatriot.

"I don't see it that way," Alcaraz responded to Eurosport when asked if he was embroiled in a battle with Nadal.

"It's true, Rafa is fighting for the No.1. Some players have the same goal – to be No.1, so I need to do my best. Outside the court [Rafa and I] are colleagues, at least it's the way I see it.

"Rafa is not my enemy. I say hello, I don't see that competition. With the rest of the players, it's the same. Beyond that relationship, I'll try to keep being No.1."

 

While Alcaraz remains the world's top-ranked male player, he intends to savour the moment after a surreal victory at the US Open.

"It is an incredible feeling, waking up as No.1, the US Open winner. It's a dream come true," he added.

"I am enjoying this moment so far. I keep working, my life is still the same, I'm still the same kid, same player. I just keep practising, keep improving."

As the teen aims to relish topping the ranks, his next focus turns to the Paris Masters – where he faces Yoshihito Nishioka on Wednesday – with a knee injury not as serious as first thought.

"It's a little pain, but the calendar is very demanding," he said of the injury. "We are playing and travelling with barely any breaks and it's normal that we have a few pains.

"All players have them and we learn how to deal with them. I am feeling good physically and I am ready to play here in Paris and in Turin in the [ATP] Finals."

Related items

  • Salah 'suffering' after Liverpool's dominant front three disbanded – Klopp Salah 'suffering' after Liverpool's dominant front three disbanded – Klopp

    Mohamed Salah is "suffering" after seeing Liverpool's "well-drilled machine" frontline disbanded this season, according to Jurgen Klopp.

    Sadio Mane left for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich prior to this term, while Roberto Firmino has seen his role diminished after the arrival of Darwin Nunez and more recently Cody Gakpo.

    Egypt international Salah remains the constant in Klopp's front three, though he has struggled in front of goal this campaign – converting just 11.7 per cent of his chances for seven Premier League goals.

    That mark may seem poor for the three-time Premier League Golden Boot winner, whose previous lowest conversion rate for Liverpool was 14.4 per cent when he scored 19 in the 2019-20 campaign.

    "Of course he is suffering," said Klopp ahead of Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round clash with in-form Brighton and Hove Albion. "It is specific, offensive play that requires a lot of work and a lot of information."

    Salah, Firmino and Mane fired Liverpool to a Champions League crown and the Premier League title, though that front three are now a distant memory at Anfield.

    "It was a well-drilled machine the front three, everything was clear what we were doing," the German added.

    "You create a feeling about a lot of these things, about where your team-mate is and where to pass the ball without looking."

    Gakpo and Nunez are among the new faces tasked with reinventing Liverpool's attacking fortunes but Klopp acknowledged it will take time for his side to adapt.

    "Now we have Cody as a really important asset, like a connector, he can play the wing and the centre as well," he added.

    "When Darwin is playing there he is obviously more high up, going in behind. We never played with a nine before, even when Sadio played in the position he was dropping in moments.

    "It is all good if they would all be in and we could build something, but we haven't been able to do that yet."

    Diogo Jota is nearing a return to bolster a Reds attacking line-up in desperate need of some form, yet Klopp believes Liverpool – who are ninth in the league – have greater concerns than a misfiring attack.

    "If you had scored hundreds of goals in the past and now you are not scoring then that is the first thing you would think about but that is not our problem at the moment," he said.

    "But usually you have a real basis to build on and that is what we don't have. The problem is you need time and nobody wants to invest time.

    "I wish everything would be easier again and that already we had qualified for finals at the end of the season. This situation is not perfect but the basis of the last two games is something I like."

  • Real Sociedad dreaming of going all the way, 20 years on from pushing the Galacticos until the end Real Sociedad dreaming of going all the way, 20 years on from pushing the Galacticos until the end

    LaLiga finds itself in the rather awkward position where it wants the competition to be competitive internally while also desperate for the 'big two' to remain the behemoths they are, because Real Madrid and Barcelona are good for business.

    President Javier Tebas insists LaLiga is, in sporting terms, the most competitive league in the world, something he believes is proven by the performances of Spanish teams in Europe over the past 20 years or so.

    To his credit, the incredibly divisive figure of Tebas has done plenty of good for Spanish football. In general it is far more financially stable than when he was elected in 2013, and the centralised sale of TV broadcast rights has levelled the playing field a little more.

    Fairly or not, though, there are many who feel that there only being two – or three in some years – teams capable of winning the league shows its lack of competitiveness.

    But when a club does rise above the rabble, the financial disparity between Real Madrid and Barcelona and the rest makes the achievement of simply challenging all the more impressive.

    This time it's Real Sociedad, and on Sunday they could make a statement.

    La Real out to put the big boys on notice

    The omens aren't great.

    Real Madrid have lost only one of their last 15 LaLiga home games against La Real (W12 D2), the one exception coming in May 2019.

    But there's something a bit different about this vintage.

    Until the slender 1-0 Copa del Rey defeat to Barcelona at Camp Nou on Thursday, La Real's nine-match winning streak across all competitions was the best such run they have managed since returning to LaLiga for the 2010-11 season.

    Sitting third heading into the weekend, La Real are seven points clear of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid and already look near-certainties for the Champions League.

    Defeat to Barca in the week was undoubtedly a setback, but it provided yet more evidence of them not being easy to beat.

    The fact their 38 points from 18 matches is just two shy of a club record set in the 2002-03 season – more on that team later – highlights just how impressive they've been generally.

    Yet, it doesn't tell the whole story. Imanol Alguacil has overseen this start to the campaign despite losing Alexander Isak to Newcastle United and then seeing his replacement Umar Sadiq succumb to a serious knee injury – from which he still hasn't recovered – after playing just 82 minutes for his new club.

    The neat and intelligent Martin Zubimendi thrives in defensive midfield; 36-year-old David Silva continues to defy his age as the number 10; Robin Le Normand has developed into one of the most under-rated centre-backs in the league; Brais Mendez has taken their midfield to a new level; and Alexander Sorloth – who once scored no Premier League goals in a year at Crystal Palace and netted just four all last season for La Real – is the unlikely talisman up top.

    The big Norwegian has scored eight goals, none of which have been penalties, in LaLiga. Only Robert Lewandowski (13) has more, while Sorloth ranks third for non-penalty expected goals (xG) with 6.0.

    We can't call it a title challenge yet. They are still six points behind Barca having played a game more than the Blaugrana.

    But with just over half the season still to go, La Real find themselves in position to pounce should Xavi's side let up – providing they can retain their own momentum.

    Win at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday and everyone else will begin to take them a little more seriously as well.

    Two points from immortality

    La Real have been here before.

    Their flirt with the title in the 2002-03 season is probably the best example of a so-close-yet-so-far tale in modern Spanish football.

    It effectively came out of nowhere, too.

    Four successive seasons of mid-table obscurity had offered no hint of what was to come, and what followed that campaign made it all seem like a farfetched dream.

    La Real pushed a Madrid side that included Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos to the wire, even beating them 4-2 at Anoeta to reinvigorate their campaign after a chastening derby defeat to Athletic Bilbao in late 2002 was followed by something of a blip.

    The Basques headed into the final three games of the season knowing nine points would secure the rarest of title wins.

    They had risen to most challenges to that point. Their little-and-large striker duo of Darko Kovacevic and Nihat Kahveci plundered goals at will, racking up 43 between them; Xabi Alonso gave them almost ceaseless control in midfield; Valery Karpin and Javier de Pedro provided ammunition from the flanks.

    But it couldn't have been a shock that a team without a league title since 1982 crumbled in the end. A draw at home to Valencia was followed by defeat to Celta Vigo in Galicia, while Madrid beat Atletico Madrid.

    La Real's win over Los Colchoneros on the final day of the season was insufficient to keep hopes alive as Madrid comfortably saw off Athletic.

    It was a valiant effort, with La Real edged out by two points when all was said and done, but it was not the start of a prosperous new era. What followed was four seasons of dicing with relegation, the last ultimately claiming them and leading to three campaigns in the second tier.

    The difference this time? Stability, consistency. The past six years have essentially confirmed La Real as a top-half team, finishing sixth or higher four times, including in each of the last three.

    Imanol has been in charge for those three, moulding La Real into a highly organised, high-pressing and dynamic side. But their institutional excellence goes deeper than that, with synergy a key priority from top to bottom, hence how 15 members of the first-team squad have come up through the academy or the B team. Make that 16 if you include the coach himself.

    In all likelihood, La Real probably won't get that close to becoming the first team to upset the established order of the historical 'big three' since Valencia in 2004. Barcelona and Real Madrid are still too big for most to really go toe-to-toe with over a 38-game season, regardless of Tebas' changes.

    But with arguably a far more talented squad than 20 years ago, La Real are much better equipped to at least make title challenges a regular dream.

  • Klopp promises Liverpool will hit trophy trail again if they tough out the hard times Klopp promises Liverpool will hit trophy trail again if they tough out the hard times

    Jurgen Klopp sees time as a troublesome opponent to Liverpool as he attempts to rebuild his Anfield empire, promising trophies and success lie at the end of the tunnel.

    The Reds manager realises his job demands he delivers positive results, and this season continues to be a struggle for the team that went close to a staggering quadruple last term.

    On top of their EFL Cup and FA Cup wins, Liverpool almost scooped the Premier League title on the final day, while they lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

    By comparison, this campaign has been tough, and trophy prospects are not as obvious, with Liverpool out of the EFL Cup, mid-table in the league, and facing a repeat clash with Madrid at the Champions League last-16 stage.

    They also have a tricky FA Cup fourth-round game at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.

    Klopp pointed to the difficulty Liverpool have encountered with reconfiguring their front three after Sadio Mane left for Bayern Munich, with injuries biting and Darwin Nunez understandably taking time to gel with the likes of Mohamed Salah. Dutch forward Cody Gakpo, a January addition, is another finding his way.

    Klopp said Liverpool's previously long-standing attacking trident of Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino were "a well-drilled machine", but time moves on, and it was necessary to freshen up the frontline.

    The problem has been finding a similar connection, and with physical ailments meaning players are having to miss games it makes the manager's job complicated as he looks to encourage a new bond.

    "Of course that's not cool. But that's why I say we cannot expect to be back to our best, and win 5-0 and go to the next game," Klopp said. "We have to work hard. Nobody wants to hear it, but we have to do it. In two or three weeks, a couple of other options are back again. We'll have more options and can mix it up."

    Since a 3-0 league defeat to Brighton earlier this month, Liverpool have beaten Wolves 1-0 in the FA Cup third round and played out a stalemate with Chelsea.

    Klopp suggested Liverpool's main problem was not a lack of goals from Salah, even if the Egyptian has just seven in the domestic league this season.

    "The only problem with life we have is constantly the time," Klopp said, assessing the rebuilding process. "Nobody wants to invest time into that. The situation is not perfect, but the basis of the last two games is something I can work with."

    The former Borussia Dortmund boss explained: "Usually you have a real basis you build on and that's what we don't have really.

    "Here in this building we are 100 per cent ready to work through that. I wish everything would be easier again, we would qualify already for finals at the end of the season, but unfortunately I experienced different things in my life and not all of them were super positive.

    "The only thing I know is the better and the clearer you behave in our down moments, the better it will be in the up and high moments after that, because you have to be respectful, you have to show the right things, you have to criticise but not being mad.

    "You have to go through it and then there's light at the end of the tunnel, there are finals and there are trophies at the end of the tunnel. Not now."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.