INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, March 18, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
When three-time BNP Paribas Open champion Rafael Nadal and 18-year-old sensation Carlos Alcaraz meet in an all-Spanish semifinal Saturday, it will mark the first time for a Spanish pair to reach the Indian Wells semifinals in the tournament’s 46-year history.
It’s also the second time that Nadal and Alcaraz have faced each other. The first was last year in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open on clay. It was on the occasion of Alcaraz’s 18th birthday. Nadal easily won 6-1, 6-2.
Fast forward 10 months and so far, the World No. 4 Nadal (19-0) and 19th-ranked Alcaraz (12-1) are a combined 31-1 this season. The 36-year-old Nadal from Manacor, Mallorca, has already won three titles – Melbourne Summer Set 1, Australian Open and Abierto Mexicano Telcel, all on hard courts – and Alcaraz, a native of El Palmar, Murcia, became the youngest ATP 500 champion when he won at Rio de Janeiro on clay last month. After dethroning defending champion Cameron Norrie in straight sets Thursday night, Alcaraz became the second-youngest Indian Wells semifinalist in tournament history and the youngest since then-17-year-old Andre Agassi in 1988.
He is into the final four of a Masters 1000 for the first time and the youngest semifinalist since 1988, upsetting defending champion Cam Norrie 6-4, 6-3 👏👏@alcarazcarlos03 | @BNPPARIBASOPEN | #IndianWells pic.twitter.com/NRwIY7cS7i
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 18, 2022
The No. 19 seed Alcaraz hit 31 winners and made just 14 unforced errors en route to his 6-4, 6-3 victory against the World No. 12 Norrie in a tightly-played quarterfinal, in which there were 10 breaks of serve – five in each set – and Alcaraz fell behind in both sets before righting himself.
“It’s so special to be able to play my first semifinal in a Masters 1000 here in Indian Wells, in Tennis Paradise,” Alcaraz said during his on-court, post-match interview Thursday evening. “I’m enjoying every single second. I have no words to describe my feelings right now.”
Final 4 here he comes 🙌@alcarazcarlos03 defeats Norrie 6-4 6-3 to reach his first Masters 1000 semi-final!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 18, 2022
Meanwhile, Nadal is a 36-time Masters 1000 champion who will be going up against one of the hottest young players on Tour. Nadal advanced with a 7-6 (0), 5-7, 6-4 quarterfinal win over wild card Nick Kyrgios.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) March 18, 2022
“I think he’s unstoppable in terms of his career,” the 35-year-old Nadal said, in describing Alcaraz. “He has all the ingredients: He has the passion. He’s humble enough to work hard. He’s a good guy. He reminds me a lot of things when I was a 17- or 18-year-old kid.”
Nadal continued: “He has the talent and the physical component that’s great. I’m super happy even though it’s going to be a great rivalry for the next couple of months, without a doubt. But being selfish, it’s great, honestly, to have such a star from my country, because for tennis lovers, we’re going to enjoy an amazing player fighting for the most important titles for the next, I don’t know how many years, a lot of years.”
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 18, 2022
Alcaraz looks forward to the challenge. “I know more how to play against him,” Alcaraz said. “I think now it’s going to be a little bit different this match. Obviously, he can destroy me again, but I don’t what is going to happen. …
“It’s tough to play against Rafa, but at the same time, I will enjoy the moment. I will enjoy the match. It’s not every day you play against your idol. I’m going to be happy even if I lose that match, but I am focused right now to play my best against Rafa and be able to take my chances.”