Carlos Alcaraz secured the perfect early birthday present after beating Adrian Mannarino in the Madrid Open to set up a second-round match with his idol Rafael Nadal.
The teenager turns 18 on Wednesday and he will spend it on court with a man who won his first Madrid title when Alcaraz was just two years old.
In beating Mannarino 6-4 6-0, Alcaraz beat a record set by Nadal to become the youngest player to win a match in the tournament’s history.
Carlos Alcaraz will play his tennis hero Rafael Nadal in the second-round of the Madrid Open
The teenager turns 18 on Wednesday and will spend his birthday on court with his countryman
It was the youngster’s first win at an ATP Masters 1000 event – he has a way to go to reach Nadal’s 391 victories in those events.
The pair were seen practicing together at the Australian Open earlier this year, and Alcaraz’s quick rise through the ranks have already led to comparisons between the teenager and his fellow countryman.
Nadal, who is looking for his sixth Madrid Open title and coming off the back of victory in Barcelona, has spoken highly of Alcaraz in the past.
‘Carlos is an amazing player with an amazing level of tennis,’ Nadal said. ‘He will probably be one of the greatest players in the world soon.’
Wednesday’s match will be just the second time Alcaraz has face a player ranked in the top ten in the world, having lost to Alexander Zverev in Mexico back in March.
Alcaraz lost to Alexander Zverev in his only previous match against a player in the top ten
Nadal’s uncle, Toni Nadal, who was for a long time part of his nephew’s coaching team, has also been full of praise for Alcaraz.
However, the 17-year-old’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero tried to downplay any unnecessary expectation put on his player after he reached the second round of the Australian Open earlier this year for his first win in the main draw of a Grand Slam.
‘If you hear that from Toni, everybody is open ears,’ Ferrero told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
‘Of course, that’s not easy. That pressure for someone who’s 17 – it’s not great.
‘In Spain, everybody is saying that he’s the next Rafa. For him, it’s not easy to hear that. He’s not saying anything about it and as his team, we are trying to make a big wall around him.
‘We’re trying to make him do his own thing and play a good level. We’re not trying to hear all the mosquitoes that are around. But this isn’t easy.’
The Spaniard’s coach has admitted the huge expectation already on the youngster is not ideal