On what proved to be a fascinating day’s play at the Mutua Madrid Masters, Dan Evans continued his excellent form to reach the last 16 while the title favourite Rafa Nadal handed out a serious tennis lesson to the Spanish teenager celebrating his 18th birthday. In addition three seeds saw their individual campaigns brought to an abrupt end.
Evans, who had never been comfortable on clay until this season when he made the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters which included a win over the world No.1, is proving his transformation to a clay-courter wasn’t a flash in the pan.
On Wednesday the British No.1 reached the last 16 when he beat the Australian John Millman 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 to go on and face the fifth seed Alexander Zverev for a place in the quarter-finals. The German progressed after making light work of Japan’s Kei Nishikori, defeating him 6-3 6-2.
After being edged out of the first set in the tie-break, Evans regained his focus and by deploying plenty of variety, fought his way back to take the win.
“It feels great, when you play someone like John if you don’t accept it is going to hurt a little you will struggle. It hurt at points, but it was worth it,” said Evans.
On facing 2018 champion Zverev, he added: “It will suit him here because it is [a] very lively [court] but if I get into the match and stay close, I have a good chance to cause him some difficulties.”
The Spanish icon, Rafa Nadal, going for a record-extending sixth title in the Spanish capital, made short work of the youngster tipped to take over his mantle as the leading force in Spanish men’s tennis.
Alcaraz was playing his idol for the first time on his 18th birthday, but was given a harsh lesson by the 20-time Grand Slam champion who swept past him 6-1 6-2 in just 77-minutes.
Nadal, 34, converted five of seven break points as Alcaraz, who needed some medical treatment early in the first set after stretching for a lob, was impressed by the teenager who held a break point against him in the first game.
“Even if was not a comfortable start against a very young and great player like Carlos, I think I played a solid match and I did what I had to do to go through,” Nadal said. “So very happy about the performance today.
“He’s playing very aggressive. He has a lot of potential. He’s a young and good guy, so, I mean, he already has a great level of tennis today, but I really believe that he gonna be a fantastic player in the near future.
“I wish him all the very best. I mean, like Spanish player and like in Spanish fan, I really believe that we need somebody like him, and it’s great to have him here.”
The tennis lesson was well received by Alcaraz.
“It’s amazing, no, to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him, yeah, playing here in Madrid,” Alcaraz admitted. “It could better if I could win, but I really enjoy. I really learn from him, and, yeah, I think this match made me grow up as a player. I really happy to spend my birthday like this.
“This match made me learn a lot, because, well, I have to know how to manage the tough moments and, well, know how to play against these kind of players, no?
“This is so tough matches, tough players, and I have to learn how to play against them. So I think if I could play more matches like this I will grow up faster, and I think this — yeah, grow up as a player faster.”
Nadal meanwhile moves on to face Alexei Popyrin who upset the 14th seed, Jannik Sinner 7-6(5) 6-2, in the first of the three upsets which saw seeds’ campaigns come to an end at this early stage.
“He has a huge serve, great forehand, young,” Nadal said of his next opponent. “Another tough opponent.
“I hope to be ready to play well. That’s what I gonna need every single day if I want to have chances to keep playing. Tomorrow is another tough battle. I hope to be ready.”
John Isner ousted the second seed, scoring a great win by saving a match point to get the better of Roberto Bautista Agut, the 9th seed, in a final set breaker 6-4 6-7(4) 7-6(6). The big serving American will now take on 6th seed from Russia, Andrey Rublev.
The third seed to be shown the early door was Diego Schwartzman (7) who was beaten by Russia’s late developer, Aslan Karatsav 2-6 6-4 6-1.
In other action the second seed, Daniil Medvedev opened the day by earning his first career win in Madrid beating another young Spaniard, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The Russian dropped the opener before rallying for a 4-6 6-4 6-2 victory.
“To be honest, I mean, I feel like first set I should have won it also, but that’s clay,” Medvedev said. “You have a lot of breakpoints. He played good. He made some winners. I lost my serve from not so many breakpoints, I think I saved one, and yeah, the serve was over, so it was very frustrating.
“A lot of matches on clay I lost like this before, so I knew, okay, there is nothing to do else than continue playing, because I was playing not bad. I managed to actually, yeah, finish the important moments with some good shots, and that was the key to win the match.”
Also through is the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fourth seed and Monte Carlo champion, breezed past the French ‘Bad Boy’, Benoit Paire 6-1 6-2 and will now face Norway’s Casper Ruud, a semi-finalist at last week’s Munich Open.