Rafael Nadal said he approached facing Carlos Alcaraz in the Indian Wells semi-final like he was "playing against a top-eight player" and says he has what it takes to become "an amazing champion".
Nadal needed three hours and 12 minutes to overcome the 18-year-old 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a thrilling contest in windy conditions on Saturday.
The 21-time Grand Slam title winner, who extended his unbeaten record to 20-0 for the year, says Alcaraz has the skillset to get to the top of the men's game.
ATP Indian Wells
'Snarky' Kyrgios was wrong to bash journalist over racquet smash question – Evert
24/03/2022 AT 07:21
“I think he has all the shots,” the 35-year-old said.
“He can play very aggressive. He can play defensive because he's super fast. He can defend amazing balls.
"Of course, when he's playing aggressive, it is difficult to stop him because the quality of his ball is very high.
"I think he has all the ingredients to become an amazing champion. I didn't come to the match more nervous because I was playing a youngster.
"I treated it like I was playing against a top-eight player. In terms of level, that was my feeling."
Alcaraz already has two ATP tour titles to his name, including the Rio Open which he won in February this year.
Nadal, who is a childhood idol to Alcaraz, believes the world No. 19 will only continue to improve.
“When you are young, when you are living new experiences for the first time, everything is new,” he said.
"You are playing in stadiums, against opponents, in tournaments that just one or two years ago you were watching on TV.
"I think you're excited. You have the passion. You have nothing to lose…he's at the beginning of this process.
"It looks like he's humble enough to work hard and to understand that we, the tennis players, if we want to be great champions, the only way is to keep improving during all our careers.
"That's what I tried. I really believe that he's doing that. I don't have many doubts that he will be great. He is already, by the way!”

Rafael Nadal (L) and Carlos Alcaraz (R)

Image credit: Getty Images

Nadal has dropped three sets en route to the Indian Wells final where he is chasing a record-equalling 37th ATP Masters 1000 title to level with Novak Djokovic.
He says he is in good shape going into his 53rd Masters final.
"Physically I feel well," he added. "I played almost three hours the other day, three hours today. In terms of physical performance, I don't feel very tired.
"With the conditions, I always felt good physically here. I think I never lost a match here for a physical issue, in terms of being tired.
"I am quite well, honestly. I can't complain. I am enjoying it. I had plenty of tough battles this week, but I am still alive."
- - -
Stream the 2022 French Open live and on-demand on discovery+
ATP Indian Wells
‘Not good news’ – Nadal out for four to six weeks with cracked rib
22/03/2022 AT 13:55
ATP Indian Wells
Indian Wells takeaways: Nadal concerns, Swiatek class, Alcaraz shines
21/03/2022 AT 11:13