#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz was only two years old when Rafael Nadal won his first Madrid title in 2005. Now, the 17-year-old is one win away from taking on the Spanish great himself on home soil at the Mutua Madrid Open.
But the wild card knows that he has to focus on the match in front of him to get there. Alcaraz will face Adrian Mannarino on Monday inside Manolo Santana Stadium.
“It [would] mean a lot to me to be able to play against Rafa, but I have to win one match against a great player,” Alcaraz said in a pre-tournament interview. “Let’s see what happens and let’s see if I could win.”
The fast-rising teen has competed at this venue several times as a junior, and he’s hoping that home-field advantage will be the key to booking the blockbuster second-round clash.
“I’ve come here to this tournament when I was young for a lot of years,” Alcaraz said. “I saw a lot of matches and a lot of players playing here. And now, playing here and training with the best players in the world means a lot. I will enjoy every moment.”
The Spanish teen arrived in the capital on a high after reaching his first tour-level semi-final in Marbella (l. Munar). It’s been a season of firsts for Alcaraz, who began 2021 by qualifying for his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open, where he claimed a victory in his main draw debut.
Alcaraz’s early success has drawn plenty of comparisons to Nadal’s own breakthrough as a teen. Nadal has tipped his countryman for even more success, and was generous with praise for Alcaraz’s high level of tennis in a pre-tournament interview.
“Carlos is an amazing player with an amazing level of tennis [already],” Nadal said. “He will probably be one of the greatest players in the world soon.”
Sitting at No. 120 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Alcaraz would face the biggest challenge of his career should he go on to face World No. 2 Nadal. He’s only played against one Top 10 player to date, falling to No. 7 Alexander Zverev in Acapulco.
But Mannarino is a tough foe himself. The French lefty will be competing in the Mutua Madrid Open main draw for the sixth time, and he has made the second round twice.
Also in action, unseeded Aslan Karatsev will hope to continue his own fast rise against Ugo Humbert in the opening round. Karatsev reached his first tour-level clay final at the Serbia Open in Belgrade, while Humbert arrived in Madrid after reaching the quarter-finals in Estoril. The winner will take on seventh seed Diego Schwartzman in the second round.
Grigor Dimitrov, the 13th seed, will also feature as he faces Lloyd Harris in the first match of the day at Manolo Santana Stadium. The Bulgarian has advanced to at least the third round at the Caja Magica four times, and he defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at this event in 2013.
The hosts will be well-represented on Monday, with five Spanish men in action including Alcaraz, 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta and wild card Fernando Verdasco. Marbella champion Carreno Busta will take on Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis, while former World No. 7 Verdasco will face 16th seed and Santiago champion Cristian Garin.
In doubles, eighth seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lead the way as they begin their Madrid campaign against Marcelo Melo and Jean-Julien Rojer. Rojer has previously won two Madrid titles (w/ Tecau) in 2016 and 2019, while Melo lifted the trophy in 2017 (w/ Kubot).
[WATCH LIVE 2]
SCHEDULE – MONDAY, MAY 03, 2021
MANOLO SANTANA STADIUM start 11:00 am
L. Harris (RSA) vs  G. Dimitrov (BUL)
Not Before 1:00 PM
WTA MATCH –  P. Kvitova (CZE) vs V. Kudermetova (RUS)
A. Mannarino (FRA) vs [WC] C. Alcaraz (ESP)
Not Before 7:00 PM
WTA MATCH –  A. Barty (AUS) vs  I. Swiatek (POL)
 C. Garin (CHI) vs [WC] F. Verdasco (ESP)
ARANTXA SANCHEZ STADIUM start 11:00 am
J. Isner (USA) vs M. Kecmanovic (SRB)
J. Chardy (FRA) vs D. Evans (GBR)
[Q] C. Taberner (ESP) vs F. Fognini (ITA)
Not Before 5:00 PM
WTA MATCH – [WC] P. Badosa (ESP) vs [Q] A. Sevastova (LAT)
[Q] F. Delbonis (ARG) vs  P. Carreno Busta (ESP)
STADIUM 3 start 11:00 am
U. Humbert (FRA) vs A. Karatsev (RUS)
D. Koepfer (GER) vs R. Opelka (USA)
Not Before 3:00 PM
WTA MATCH – O. Jabeur (TUN) vs  B. Bencic (SUI)
[Q] P. Andujar (ESP) vs [Q] M. Giron (USA)
COURT 4 start 11:00 am
M. Melo (BRA) / J. Rojer (NED) vs  J. Murray (GBR) / B. Soares (BRA)
J. Peers (AUS) / M. Venus (NZL) vs M. Purcell (AUS) / L. Saville (AUS)
[WC] M. Lopez (ESP) / J. Munar (ESP) vs R. Bopanna (IND) / D. Shapovalov (CAN)