Date: 5 May 2021
Tournament: Mutua Madrid Open 2021
Round: Second round (Round of 32)
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Category: ATP Masters 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €2,614,465
Match timing: Not before 3 pm local time, 6.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Rafael Nadal vs Carlos Alcaraz preview
Rafael Nadal will begin his 2021 Mutua Madrid Open campaign against compatriot Carloz Alcaraz. The two Spaniards will face each other in the second round of the tournament on Wednesday, which also happens to be Alcaraz's 18th birthday.
Alcaraz marked his Masters 1000 debut with an emphatic 6-4, 6-0 win over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino on Monday. Nadal, on the other hand, received a bye in the opening round.
Alcaraz had a fairly successful start to the clay swing, reaching the semifinals of the Andalucia Open. The 17-year-old then fell in the opening round at the Barcelona Open and Estoril Open, but he seems to have rediscovered his best tennis in Madrid.
Alcaraz outplayed Mannarino from start to finish, with his forehand in particular proving too hot to handle for the Frenchman. The Spaniard hammered a whopping 19 winners off that wing.
Mannarino, who could muster just four winners of his own all match (compared to his opponent's 24), had visible difficulty gauging the spin and bounce on Alcaraz's shots.
Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, needs no introduction when it comes to claycourt tennis. The 34-year-old's love affair with clay remains as strong as ever, despite the fact that he hasn't been in the best form lately. He withstood a stiff challenge from Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final last week, emerging victorious after 200 minutes of grueling tennis.
The World No. 2 is a five-time champion in the Spanish capital, but hasn't made the title round since 2017. Nadal finished as a quarterfinalist in 2018 and as a semifinalist the following year.
Rafael Nadal vs Carlos Alcaraz head-to-head
Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz have never faced each other on tour before, so their head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.
Rafael Nadal vs Carlos Alcaraz prediction
Regardless of the outcome, this match will be a landmark encounter for Carlos Alcaraz. Playing Rafael Nadal on clay is by far the biggest test he can ask for at this stage of his career.
Judging by his ruthless demeanor on Monday, it is likely that Alcaraz will not be overwhelmed by the occasion. Many expect the teenager to put up a fight against Nadal.
That said, beating the Mallorcan on clay is a distant dream for even the most established players on tour. Nadal absorbs pressure and aggression better than anybody else, and will likely nullify the teenager's vicious forehand with his resolute defense.
If Alcaraz can get off to a good start, he might eke out a set. But a victory against Nadal might just be too big an ask for the teenager at this stage of his career.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.