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Tennis

Djokovic: Alcaraz ‘breathing new life into tennis’ ahead of Madrid semi-final

Carlos Alcaraz continues to take the ATP Tour by storm, and Novak Djokovic hailed the influence the teenager is having on tennis after he beat Rafa Nadal.

Djokovic praises "special" Alcaraz after Nadal victory
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Novak Djokovic has labelled Carlos Alcaraz as “special” and praised the Spaniard for “breathing new life into the world of tennis”.

Serbian Djokovic defeated Pole Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-4 to reach his seventh Madrid Open semi-final, where he will meet Alcaraz, who overcame Rafael Nadal 6-2 1-6 6-3 on Friday.

Victory made 19-year-old Alcaraz the first teenager to beat record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal on clay on the ATP Tour.

Alcaraz has won his last five matches against top-10 opponents and next faces world number one Djokovic for a place in the final in the Spanish capital.

Djokovic was quick to hail Alcaraz, who will play in his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final on Saturday.

Djokovic: “It’s fantastic for our sport, without a doubt”

There are many things that are special about him,” Djokovic said in a news conference.

“In the last decades, we have had some incredible champions [as teenagers] like Michael Chang. But, nowadays, we’re not used to seeing someone who is a teenager and already breaks into the top 10 and plays at such a high level.

“His growth, his improvement and his trajectory, especially in the last six months, have been incredible.

He is a very nice guy off the court. I had the opportunity to train with him and spend a little time off the court with him here in Madrid, and I must say that on all fronts, he is great on and off the court.”

Quoted by Spanish media, Djokovic said of Alcaraz: “I love watching him play, like many other players on tour. I praise his game without a doubt. It’s fantastic for our sport, without a doubt.

I think it’s fantastic that we have a young player who is doing so well and who is breathing new life into the world of tennis.”

Alcaraz: “To beat Rafa, the best player in history on clay, it means a lot”

Alcaraz expressed personal delight after defeating clay-court great and compatriot Nadal, battling back from an injury worry in the second set.

“It means a lot to me. All the hard work I put in every day has paid off,” he said in the aftermath of his victory. “To beat Rafa, the best player in history on clay, it means a lot.

“The fall in the second set affected me a lot. When I lost the set I went to the bathroom and thought I would be able to come back to do my best and try everything. I wanted to fight until the last ball and that was the key.”