Rafael Nadal wants the comparisons between himself and Carlos Alcaraz to stop as he hopes his compatriot will not come under too much pressure.

Alcaraz defeated Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev to win the Madrid Open last week.

The 19-year-old has a 28-3 record for the 2022 season and has risen to world number six in the ATP rankings, having won four tournaments this year.

His incredible form has drawn plenty of comparisons to Nadal, who was a teenager when he burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s.

Nadal bounced back from his defeat to Alcaraz by defeating John Isner at the Internazionali d'Italia on Wednesday.

The 21-time grand slam champion is going for an 11th title in Rome, but he could not avoid fielding questions about Alcaraz in his post-match news conference.

"I do not know. And I won't be able to talk every day about who will be or who is stronger that day, will I? I forgot what I was like," Nadal replied when asked who he thought was a better player at the age of 19 out of himself and Alcaraz.

 

"The only thing we can do is enjoy the career of an extraordinary player like Carlos. But stop comparing him to me. 

"If he manages to win 25 grand slams, it will be fantastic for him and for our country. But let him enjoy his personal career. I have enjoyed my personal career.

"Probably in 2005, I wouldn't have said about myself that I was great, but I thought I was good enough. That's all. Different moments. Different careers. A different way of approaching things because times are changing.

"But let's enjoy it. We don't [need to] put further pressure on him. Don't ask me every time, because I'll always tell you the same thing. 

"It's good for our sport. Honestly, in a selfish way, as a viewer, to have someone like Carlos who will enjoy their career for the next few years is fantastic.

"But now I'm still playing. I am focused on trying to do the things I have to do. That's all."

Rafael Nadal accepts he will have to perform better than he did against John Isner if he is to overcome "dangerous" opponent Denis Shapovalov at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The world number four's bid for an 11th title in Rome got off to a strong start on Wednesday as he saw off big-serving Isner 6-3 6-1 in a time of 76 minutes.

Isner twice missed the chance to break Nadal in the seventh game of the opening set and the Spaniard took control from that point on in the second-round match.

Nadal, who has won this tournament in three of the past four years, identified that hold of serve as a key point in the contest.

"The beginning of the match was not good for me," he said in his on-court interview. "He had some chances on the return and had two break points. 

"He had two not difficult balls so I was in his hands at that moment. I was lucky that he missed those shots and then I was able to break. 

"Then the match changed, of course. With the first set on the board, and having the break in the first game of the second set, everything changed."

Nadal will now face Shapovalov in a repeat of last year's last-16 encounter, which the record 21-time grand slam winner edged in three sets.

He recovered from a set down and saved two match points before beating the Canadian 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) en route to lifting the title in the Italian capital.

And Nadal, who was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz on clay in last week's Madrid Open quarter-final, is not expecting an easy task this time around.

"Last year was a joke, the match that I saved here against him," said Nadal of his next opponent. "I was super lucky. I know how dangerous he is, I need to play well. 

"I need to play better than today, but after a while without being on court it is another victory and I have the chance again to play against one of the best players in the world.

"I need to build things again after a tough stoppage and that's what I am trying now. I just need to stay with the right attitude, and let's see if I am able to make that happen."

Alexander Zverev also booked his place in the last 16 on Wednesday thanks to a 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory over Sebastian Baez.

Last week's Madrid Open runner-up was given a tough time of things by in-form Baez, but ultimately came through unscathed to stay on course for more silverware.

Novak Djokovic had few issues seeing off Aslan Karatsev to reach the last 16 of the Internazionali d'Italia on Tuesday as he bids to remain world number one.

Djokovic needs to reach the semi-finals in Rome to ensure Daniil Medvedev cannot usurp him atop the ATP rankings next week, and he made a solid start with a 6-3 6-2 victory over another Russian in the second round.

Karatsev did initially pose a threat, with both players breaking at the first opportunity, but Djokovic's superiority gave him the edge in the first set and then saw him cruise in the second.

Djokovic – who will face either Stan Wawrinka or Laslo Djere next – acknowledged he undoubtedly benefited from Karatsev's wastefulness, however.

"You never know with him," Djokovic said. "If he's feeling the ball, he can be very dangerous because he stays so close to the line, puts pressure on his opponents.

"He was missing a lot of balls today, though. He gave me a couple of breaks there in the first and second sets, but I'll take this win for sure.

"It's a straight-sets win against a quality opponent, and I'm looking forward to the next challenge."

Fifth seed Casper Ruud also progressed to the last 16 but was tested by Botic van de Zandschulp, with the Norwegian eventually coming through 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4.

But Andrey Rublev, who had won six of his previous seven matches, was a surprise second-round casualty as he fell to Filip Krajinovic in straight sets, with the Serbian claiming a 6-2 6-4 win.

Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov were the other seeds to reach the last 16 on Tuesday. The former was pushed hard by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 success, while the latter could face Rafael Nadal next up.

Meanwhile, across seven first-round matches, Cameron Norrie, Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman were the biggest names to advance, though 11th seed Hubert Hurkacz was dumped out by the unseeded David Goffin.

Carlos Alcaraz is the best player on the ATP Tour at the moment, according to world number one Novak Djokovic. 

Spanish 19-year-old Alcaraz claimed his fourth title of the season at the Madrid Open on Sunday, defeating world number three Alexander Zverev in the final after overcoming Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in his two previous matches. 

The teenager has surged up to a career-high sixth in the world rankings as a result, though he opted against competing at this week's Internazionali d'Italia with the French Open rapidly approaching. 

"He definitely is special," said Djokovic, who will begin his campaign in Rome against Aslan Karatsev on Tuesday. 

"Already he's breaking a lot of records as a teenager, winning two Masters events this year, a couple of 500s. So far, he's the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he's been doing. 

"The way he was dealing with the pressure... In our match few days ago, how calm he was all the way until the [end] was impressive. 

"He deserved to win the trophy. Everything about his game is really impressive. He's a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He's the talk of the sport."

Djokovic is yet to win any silverware this season and possesses a 7-4 record, but feels as though he has turned a corner ahead of Roland Garros, where he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to win his second French Open title last year.

"I think it's closer to [my] desired level every week," he explained. "Madrid, even though I lost in the semi-finals, I still think I played really good tennis, felt physically 100 per cent, even after an almost three-and-a-half-hour battle against Alcaraz. 

"I recovered well the next day, was ready to go. That's a positive and encouraging factor prior to Rome and also, of course, the big goal, which is Paris.

"I think I'm [going] in the right direction. I know I can always play better, and I know that I'm very self-critical on the court. At the same time, realistically looking, I think the tennis, quality of tennis, level of tennis, is really high now. 

"Hopefully I can maintain that level throughout this week and build, go deep in this tournament hopefully — that's the goal — and come to Paris well-prepared."

Rafael Nadal conceded Spanish tennis fans have a new star to support after Carlos Alcaraz continued his remarkable season with success at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz breezed past Alexander Zverev in just 62 minutes in the Madrid final on Sunday as he became the second-youngest player to win two ATP Masters 1000 titles, after also triumphing in Miami in March.

The 19-year-old is also the youngest five-time ATP Tour winner since Nadal won seven titles by the same age in 2004-05.

Alcaraz had already made more history en route to the final in the Spanish capital as he achieved a new feat, becoming the first player to defeat Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches.

Record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal acknowledged that Alcaraz's meteoric rise to success has caused somewhat of a changing of the guard within Spanish tennis.

"First, I think he is young, he is new and all the new things are much more interesting than older things. Without a doubt, when you see a new car, it always looks better," Nadal told reporters.

"When you see a new phone, they always look better than the old ones. It's something that is normal in this life. I can't complain at all about that.

"At the same time, I am happy to have somebody like him from my country achieving all the things that he is achieving."

Alcaraz opted to sit out of the Internazionali d'Italia this week to recover from an ankle injury, with the upcoming French Open at Roland Garros his next target for more success.

Nadal has had his injury problems as well, only recently returning from a rib injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks, while he continues to struggle with foot issues.

"Of course, at my age, when you start having more problems than what you can manage, of course it is tough," 35-year-old Nadal added. 

"Body issues, pains, you can manage that. The problem is when you start to feel that with all the things that are going through your body, you can't be competitive enough to fight for the things that really keep exciting you."

For now, though, Nadal remains content with how he is competing as he seeks improvements in Rome, where he faces either John Isner or Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match.

"I like what I do, honestly. I am not playing anymore for things outside of my happiness and for things outside of my personal motivation," he continued.

"For the moment I am happy. It is true that I went through, again, a tough period of time. But I am here to enjoy and to give myself a chance to play well here in Rome.

"I need to keep improving. In terms of movement, in terms of being more fitter, in terms of reading again the game. In general terms, [it was] not a negative week in Madrid, even if the tournament is probably the most difficult for me."

The fit-again Stan Wawrinka secured a first win in 15 months by defeating Reilly Opelka at the Internazionali d'Italia on Monday.

Three-time grand slam champion Wawrinka, whose most recent major success came at the 2016 US Open, was competing in just his second ATP Tour match in 14 months after recovering from a foot injury but battled past American Opelka 3-6 7-5 6-2 in Rome.

Opelka seemed to hold the initiative after dominating the first set and boasting a 4-2 advantage in the second, but the 37-year-old Swiss recovered well to fight back against the world number 17.

Wawrinka managed to release his heavy-hitting forehand and close the court by nearer to the net, with Opelka providing no response as the former world number three triumphed in two hours and five minutes.

Laslo Djere or Borna Coric will be the second-round opponent for Wawrinka, who registered his first tour-level win since February 2021.

Before defeating Opelka, Wawrinka had not won a match since he defeated Pedro Sousa at the Australian Open last season.

His only other ATP Tour match since then ended in defeat to Alexander Bublik in Monte Carlo last month.

Alexander Zverev slated ATP chiefs after a punishing defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open final, but described his Spanish conqueror as "the best player in the world" and predicted he would win a stack of grand slam titles.

German star Zverev was fuming over his court scheduling this week, claiming late-night contests meant he came into the title match in no fit state to compete as he described tournament bosses as "an absolute disgrace".

He claimed he had only been able to get to bed at 5.20am after a late-night semi-final victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday.

While Zverev had warm words for 19-year-old sensation Alcaraz, he felt he had cause to feel aggrieved at his handling by tennis organisers after his 6-3 6-1 final reverse. 

"I want to congratulate Carlitos," he said in an on-court interview. "Right now, you are the best player in the world. It is great for tennis that we have such a new superstar that is going to win so many grand slams, that is going to be world number one, and I think is going to win this tournament many more times."

Later, in a news conference, Zverev said Alcaraz had been "playing amazing".

"But one thing I have to say is that the ATP's job was an absolute disgrace this week," Zverev said, according to tennismajors.com. "Two days ago I went to bed at 4:00, 4:30am. Yesterday I went to bed at 5:20am. If any normal person goes to bed one night at 4:00am, the next night at 5:00am, it will be a tough time just to be awake for them.

"And for me to play a final against Carlos Alcaraz, who for me is the best player in the world right now, in a Masters 1000 event, the next day, it is difficult."

There is little doubt Alcaraz, who will now skip the Internazionali d'Italia to rest before the French Open, is only going to keep progressing.

After beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic this week before overcoming Zverev in the title match, he will leap three places to sixth in the ATP rankings on Monday, having followed up last month's triumph in Miami with his second Masters 1000 title.

"It feels great to be able to beat these players," Alcaraz said. "To beat two of the best players in history and then Zverev, the world number three. 

"I would say this is the best week of my life. I am 19 years old, which I think is the key to be able to play long and tough matches in a row. I am feeling great physically.

"It is a great moment for me. It is the first tournament I watched, so lifting the trophy today is so emotional."

Carlos Alcaraz secured his fifth ATP Tour title and second Masters 1000 crown by cruising past defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-1 at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz became the first player to ever defeat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches en route to the final in the Spanish capital, while Zverev edged out Stefanos Tsitsipas to make the showpiece.

Zverev, a two-time winner in Madrid in 2018 and 2021, boasted a 2-0 head-to-head record over Alcaraz on the ATP Tour heading into the clash on Sunday, but it was the 19-year-old who seized the early initiative.

Alcaraz struck first with a break to go 4-2 up after a dipping backhand evaded the reach of Zverev, who could not muster a response as the Spaniard served out a dominant first set.

The teenager continued in commanding fashion in the second set, delivering a deft drop shot to break Zverev, who missed two straightforward volleys and produced a double fault to fall 4-1 down.

World number three Zverev managed to save three match points, but a double fault then handed Alcaraz victory in just 62 minutes, becoming the youngest five-time tour winner since Nadal won seven titles by the same age in 2004-05.

Alcaraz leads the way for wins in the 2022 season as his 10th straight triumph – and seventh consecutive victory over top-10 ranked players – takes him to 28 for the campaign, one more than Tsitsipas.

Alcaraz is also the second-youngest player to win two ATP Masters 1000 titles, after triumphing in Miami in March, and will rise to second in the Race to Turin as he seeks his debut at the prestigious end-of-season event in November.

Aslan Karatsev staved off a match point to earn a meeting with Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Internazionali d'Italia. 

After coming from a set down to force a decider against Lloyd Harris in his opening match in Rome, Karatsev held serve when facing match point in a back-and-forth tie-break. 

The Russian had already missed a chance to break for the match but did not fail at the second attempt, completing a 3-6 6-3 7-6 (9-7) win to book a date with world number one Djokovic.

Djokovic will be eager to get back on track after suffering a defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open.

Filip Krajinovic's reward for a 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4) victory over Frances Tiafoe is a showdown with Andrey Rublev, while Cristian Garin will take on the in-form Alcaraz following a 6-3 6-2 success over wildcard Francesco Passaro. 

Marin Cilic was the other main-draw winner on Sunday, cruising past Matteo Arnaldi 6-1 6-4 in an hour and 20 minutes. 

Alexander Zverev avenged his Monte Carlo semi-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas, booking his place at the Madrid Open final with a 6-4 3-6 6-2 win on Saturday.

Zverev was dominant on serve, giving up only two break points for the match with a 73 per cent first-serve rate, while winning 40 of a total 48 points on his first serve.

The German will now aim to defend his title in Sunday's final when he faces Carlos Alcaraz, who defeated world number one Novak Djokovic earlier on Saturday.

The second seed will be seeking his sixth ATP 1000 title, with Sunday's final against the home favourite to be his 10th at that level.

"I'm just extremely happy to be in the final here," Zverev said post-match. "I know it's going to be an extremely tough match tomorrow but I hope I can manage to play my best and give myself a chance.

"It's going to be his [Alcaraz] court for the next 15 years probably. It has been Rafa's [Nadal] court for the past 15 years and it's going to be his court for the next 15 years.

"I just hope I can give him some trouble and I hope I can manage to win tomorrow."

Tsitsipas was similarly strong on his first serve but had a much lower rate at only 56 per cent for the match. Zverev simply had more looks at his opponent's second serve, winning 15 points compared to Tsitsipas' eight, but with each holding a 44 per cent success rate.

The defending champion at Caja Magica capitalised when it mattered, though, claiming the opening three games in the deciding set to set up the eventual win.

Andy Murray has withdrawn from the Madrid Open through illness, having been due to play old rival Novak Djokovic on Thursday.

Murray and Djokovic first faced off on the ATP Tour in Madrid 16 years ago and had been set to clash again in the last 16 after the Briton beat Dominic Thiem followed by Denis Shapovalov at the ATP 1000 event, where the world number one eased past Gael Monfils.

However, the Madrid Open confirmed on its Twitter page on Thursday that Murray would be unable to compete "due to illness", meaning Andrey Rublev and Dan Evans are to instead open the day's play on centre court.

The Serbian, who has a 25-11 record against Murray, will now face the winner of Hubert Hurkacz and Dusan Lajovic in the quarter-final after being given a walkover.

After his win against Shapovalov, Murray was excited about the prospect of locking horns with Djokovic again, saying: "In theory I should have no chance in the match. He's obviously number one in the world [and] I'm playing with a metal hip, so I shouldn't have a chance in the match.

"We've had so many great battles over the years in some of the biggest tournaments in the world. We played in the final I think of all four grand slams, we played here in the final, and I haven't had that opportunity to play against him for a long time."

Sadly for Murray, and tennis fans, that wait will have to go on for a bit longer.

Rafael Nadal requested that his opening match at the Madrid Open does not clash with his beloved Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, according to tournament director Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal, who has won the Madrid Open on five occasions, will face Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic in the round of 32 on Wednesday, the same day Los Blancos bid to overturn a 4-3 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's team at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 21-time grand slam winner is known to be an avid supporter of Madrid and was invited to take an "honorary kick-off" before Carlo Ancelotti's team wrapped up their 35th league title with a 4-0 win over Espanyol at the weekend.

Lopez confirmed Nadal's request to Spanish radio network Cadena SER on Tuesday.

"Nadal asked us that when Madrid played the Champions League semi-finals that we not play him," Lopez said.

"He likes to play during the day, so that the ball bounces higher. There are [Spanish] tennis players who are not from Madrid. David Ferrer is not from Madrid. Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez are from Barcelona, Sergi Bruguera is very much from Barcelona… it's very hard to be an anti-Madridista!"

Real Madrid have been eliminated from each of their previous five Champions League semi-finals when losing the first leg – however, Los Blancos have progressed from two of their last three knockout ties when losing the opening match (the 2015-16 quarter-final against Wolfsburg and this season's last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain).

Madrid have won the European Cup/Champions League on a record 13 occasions, also finishing as runners-up three times, and Nadal will hope to have a good view if Los Blancos seal a 17th final appearance on Wednesday.

 

Kevin Anderson, the former world number five and two-time grand slam finalist, has retired from tennis aged 35.

The South African, who won seven ATP Tour titles, announced his decision in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

"I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't playing tennis," Anderson wrote.

"I started on the journey 30 years ago when my Dad put a racquet in my hands and told me if I was willing to work hard, I could be one of the best players in the world.

"Since then, tennis carried me far beyond my roots in Johannesburg, South Africa and truly gave me the world.

"I've experienced so many different challenges and emotions; this sport can be exhilarating and at the same time lonely.

"I've had ups and downs, but I wouldn't change it for anything. My journey helped me become the man who I am today."

Anderson thanked his family, coaches, sponsors and fans before adding: "I am so thankful for the wonderful things that have come my way purely because I was a part of this sport.

"As a kid, my Dad used to tell me that success isn't defined by results, but by the effort and sacrifice you make along the way in becoming the best you can be.

"I gave it my best."

Anderson played the US Open final in 2017, losing in straight sets to Rafael Nadal. He ran into another of the sport's greats in the Wimbledon championship match the following year, beaten by Novak Djokovic.

Anderson's last tour title came at the Hall of Fame Open in July 2021.

Andy Murray swept aside Dominic Thiem in impressive fashion to secure his first clay-court win in five years as the Scot advanced to the second round at the Madrid Open on Monday.

The three-time grand slam champion was largely in control against his Austrian opponent, hitting nine aces and saving all three break points against his serve, while Thiem could only save one of the three he faced as Murray won 6-3 6-4.

He will now play 14th seed Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian beat Ugo Humbert 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

The winner of that contest will have a last-16 meeting against the victor of Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils after the latter eased into the round of 32 to set up a clash with the Serbian.

Monfils defeated wildcard Carlos Gimeno Valero 6-3 6-0 in less than an hour, while Alejandro Davidovich Fokina also advanced with a 7-5 6-3 win against Lloyd Harris.

Dusan Lajovic set up a second-round match against fifth seed Casper Ruud, who defeated Borna Coric 6-3 4-6 6-4, and ninth seed Cameron Norrie will go up against John Isner, the Briton having overcome Soonwoo Kwon 7-5 7-5.

An interesting tie awaits the much-talked about Carlos Alcaraz after Nikoloz Basilashvili beat Fabio Fognini 7-5 6-4, with the Georgian to face the number seven seeded teenager next.

Jannik Sinner, the 10th seed, scraped through a hard-fought encounter against American Tommy Paul 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3, and will play Alex de Minaur next after the Australian beat Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 6-3.

Diego Schwartzman will take on Grigor Dimitrov in the second round. The Argentine 13th seed beat Benoit Paire 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-1, while Dimitrov overcame Maxime Cressy 6-2 7-6 (7-4).

Rafael Nadal has said that Carlos Alcaraz can become one of the best players in the world, ahead of a potential meeting between the two Spaniards at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz has enjoyed an impressive season to date, having recently added the Barcelona Open to the titles won in Rio de Janeiro and Miami already in 2022.

Following on from that triumph in Catalonia, Alcaraz – who turns 19 on Thursday – became the youngest male player to break into the top 10 since Nadal 17 years ago.

However, one of his three defeats in 2022 came at the hands of Nadal in the semi-finals of Indian Wells in March, with the contest lasting over three hours.

Nadal eventually secured the win in California, 6-4 4-6 6-3, before losing the final to Taylor Fritz.

Alcaraz and Nadal are set to collide once again in Madrid should they both come through their second and third-round matches.

Speaking to Eurosport, Nadal lavished praise on his fellow Spaniard, outlining his belief that Alcaraz can have a very successful career, drawing comparisons with his own illustrious career.

"As everybody knows it's amazing," Nadal said. "He's a big candidate to win a lot of grand slams and become the number one player in the world.

"What he is doing is fantastic so well done for him and I wish him all the very best. He is doing a lot of things similar to me. He is young, he has the passion and the energy. He has every single thing to become a huge star.

"I'm like a Spanish spectator, personally I'm happy to have someone like him to stay on the tour for a long time and achieve a lot of things."

Nadal also gave an update on his own fitness, with his participation in Madrid following a hip injury part of his preparation to try and be ready for the upcoming French Open.

"I'm feeling good in terms of the hip," he said. "That's recovered so now is the time to try to recover the tennis and physical performance. That takes some time so I am here to try to be better and better every day.

"I have been out for more than a month and a half. The amount of practices I've had are just a few, and in this case, I need to be humble enough and accept that it's a process that I need to go through.

"Of course, the big goal now is to try and be ready for the French Open in three weeks."

Alcaraz last week revealed he has taken inspiration from facing Nadal, saying to Spanish talk show El Hormiguero: "I learned about the fighting spirit, of never giving up.

"From that match against him [at Indian Wells] I get the fighting spirit, never give up and fight until the last ball."

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