Novak Djokovic on ‘incredible’ Carlos Alcaraz, Real Madrid stars witness Rafael Nadal exit

A feast of Spanish tennis

If you want to get an idea of ​​the hype that surrounded Rafael Nadal’s quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, look no further than the list of high profile attendees who came to Caja Magica on Friday.

Spain’s King Felipe VI made his first appearance of the week at the Mutua Madrid Open, making sure not to miss this all-Spanish blockbuster showdown.

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Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez returned to tennis for the second day in a row, while former Spain international David Villa also took part.

Real Madrid duo Toni Kroos and Vinicius have been spotted in the stands, just two days after helping Los Blancos claim a place in the Champions League final.

While Nadal is always a major attraction at any tournament, the Spanish crowd have also fully embraced Alcaraz, who have been attracting a lot of interest so far this week.

In his last 16 win over Cameron Norrie on Thursday, former Real Madrid and Brazil star Roberto Carlos praised the teenage phenom when he spoke to Teledeporte between games.

During his press conference on Friday, Alcaraz, who beat Nadal in three sets despite rolling his ankle early in the second, was asked about the coolest part of receiving such attention, as well as the more difficult.

“It’s never easy to play in front of such a tall person looking at you, but I try not to think about it,” said Alcaraz, who had an entire stadium singing “Happy Birthday” to him on Thursday.

“Just focus on the game, focus on what you have to do. The coolest thing is that they know you. They know your game. Well, knowing you is the coolest part. But yes, it is hard at the same time.

Ready for the task

Ahead of the start of the Madrid Open, former world No.1 Naomi Osaka said Alcaraz “got everyone really excited about the ATP” – something she thinks she hasn’t seen since. long time.

On Friday, Alcaraz’s next opponent Novak Djokovic explained that he got to know the Spaniard better last week in Madrid, after training with him at Caja Magica.

Djokovic says Alcaraz’s development over the past six months has been ‘incredible’ and seems to be a big fan of the talented youngster.

“I have to say that on all fronts, on and off the pitch, he’s brilliant,” Djokovic said, giving a two-thumbs-up.

“I love watching him play, like a lot of other players on the circuit. He’s fantastic for our sport, no doubt. I think it’s great that we have a young player who is doing so well and giving a new breath in the world of tennis.

“To see that and to know that he’s a very nice guy, very humble with good values, is a perfect combination.”

Does Alcaraz feel like he has a responsibility on his shoulders as someone seen by many as the future savior of men’s tennis?

“I feel good to hear that, that the best say good words to you,” the Murcia native said.

“I don’t take responsibility for doing good results, winning every game. It’s good to hear that, but, I mean, I know I played well, I’m playing well in this tournament, but I don’t think I have to win every game, that I have to win every tournament.

“Just focus on every game, on every tournament and focus on the job.”

Stef is in the zone

Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, he flew under the radar in Madrid, playing excellent tennis and riding a wave of confidence that saw him successfully defend his title in Monte Carlo last month.

Tsitsipas, through to the semi-finals in the Spanish capital, paid tribute to his sports psychologist, Kostas Pergantis, who is with him at the tournament this week, and who has helped him maintain a state of calm on and off. ground.

“I feel centered, I feel my body relaxed. I don’t feel tension when I play,” explained Tsitsipas, who beat Andrey Rublev in three sets on Friday.

“Something I’m working on. I kinda feel like I’m in the zone and I don’t really think about the future or the past, which is a good thing. It comes with work. It comes with the daily routines I do.

It was seen on the ground. When serving for the game against Rublev, Tsitsipas faced two break points but didn’t panic, instead dug deeper and closed out the win moments later.

Asked what kind of work he does to feel “in the zone”, Tsitsipas pointed to Pergantis, who was sitting in a press conference at the back of the room.

“Nobody right there. Costas. He helps me achieve this goal,” Tsitsipas said.

“That’s the person I told you about. He’s known me since I was 10? 12? Yeah, he saw me at 12 in some courts in Greece. I was in competition, I played tournaments.

“He was the first person to walk in to see my game and ended up seeing my dad; they were studying together at university many years ago before I was even born.

“Kostas is a psychologist. What else are you, Kostas? A sports psychologist and counselor?

Kostas added “the human being”.

“He’s a human being,” Tsitsipas continued.

“We have been working with Kostas for a long time, but it has been limited. But he’s someone who helps me with my routines, and we go through it every day.

“I’m sure we’ll be traveling to a lot more tournaments this year.”

Today’s statistics

Djokovic’s win over Hurkacz on Friday was his 30th at the Madrid Open. The Serb has now won at least 30 matches in all nine Masters 1000 tournaments.

Alcaraz leads the ATP Tour this season with six top-10 wins.

Tsitsipas won a league-leading 27th game of the season with his triumph over Andrey Rublev on Friday.

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