(Reuters) – Rafa Nadal said he will be the underdog when the 21-times Grand Slam champion faces teenager Carlos Alcaraz on Friday in a battle between the Spaniards in the Madrid Open quarter-finals.
Australian Open champion Nadal is playing his first tournament since picking up a rib injury at Indian Wells in March and expects a “very tough” test against the 19-year-old.
“I think that today, he is better than me and he has a good dynamic, a good momentum,” said Nadal, who saved four match points to overcome David Goffin 6-3 5-7 7-6(9) on Thursday.
“I think that Alcaraz is in a better physical state of mind, is more fit … he’s younger, so he has that extra energy. I’m clear who, from the beginning, has some kind of advantage in tomorrow’s match.”
Alcaraz, who beat Cameron Norrie 6-4 6-7(4) 6-3 to set up a third career meeting with Nadal, has drawn comparisons with his compatriot after winning three titles this year and entering the world top 10.
“He is the best player in the world on clay … even though he says that I’m the favourite, that he’s not fit enough … you always have to think of Rafa as the favorite because he has already won here five times,” said Alcaraz, who lost their previous two meetings.
“Of course I dream and I fight to be the best one. As I already said, to be the best one you have to beat the best ones and the best. I think I’m ready to achieve that ultimate goal.”
(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)