A Spanish tennis feast

If you want to get an idea of just how much hype surrounded Rafael Nadal’s quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, look no further than the list of high-profile attendees that came to the Caja Magica on Friday.
The King of Spain, Felipe VI, made his first appearance of the week at the Mutua Madrid Open, making sure he did not miss that all-Spanish blockbuster showdown.
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Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez returned to the tennis for a second day in a row, while former Spain international David Villa was also in attendance.
Real Madrid duo Toni Kroos and Vinicius were spotted in the stands, just two days after they helped Los Blancos claim a place in the Champions League final.
While Nadal is always a top attraction at any tournament, the Spanish crowd has also fully embraced Alcaraz, who has garnered a great deal of interest so far this week.
During his last-16 win over Cameron Norrie on Thursday, former Real Madrid and Brazil star Roberto Carlos raved about the teen phenom when talking to Teledeporte between games.
In his press conference on Friday, Alcaraz, who defeated 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 toughest part.
“It's never easy to play in front of such a big person watching you, but I’m trying to not think about it,” said Alcaraz, who had an entire stadium singing ‘Happy birthday’ to him on Thursday.
“Just focus on the match, focus on what you have to do. The coolest part is that they know you. They know your game. Well, knowing you, it's the coolest part. But, yeah, it’s tough at the same time.”

Up for the task

Before the start of the Madrid Open, former world No.1 Naomi Osaka said Alcaraz “genuinely made everyone excited about the ATP” – something she feels she hasn’t seen in a very long time.
On Friday, Alcaraz’s next opponent, Novak Djokovic, spoke about getting to know the Spaniard better this past week in Madrid, having trained with him at the Caja Magica.
Djokovic said Alcaraz’s development over the past six months has been “amazing”, and appears to be a big fan of the talented youngster.
“I must say that in all fronts, on and off the court, he's great,” said Djokovic, giving a two thumbs up.
“I love to watch him play, as a lot of other players on the tour. 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 fresh breath to the tennis world.
“Seeing that and knowing that he's a very nice guy, very humble with good values, is a perfect combination.”
Does Alcaraz feel he has a responsibility on his shoulders as someone regarded by many as the future saviour of men’s tennis?
“I feel good to hear that, that the best say good words to you,” said the Murcia native.
“I don't take that responsibility to do good results, to win every match. Just feels great to hear that, but, I mean, I know that I played well, that I'm playing well in this tournament, but I don't think that I have to win every match, that I have to win all the tournaments.
“Just focus on every match, on every tournament, and focus on the work.”

Stef is in the zone

Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas he been flying under the radar in Madrid, playing great 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 credit to his sports psychologist, Kostas Pergantis, who is with him at the tournament this week, and who has been helping him maintain a state of calmness on and off the court.
“I feel centred, I feel my body relaxed. I don't feel tightness when I play,” explained Tsitsipas, who beat Andrey Rublev in three sets on Friday.
“Something I'm working on. I feel sort of like in the zone and not really thinking of future or past, which is a great thing. It comes with work. It comes with daily routines that I do.”
It’s been evident on the court. When he was serving for the match against Rublev, Tsitsipas faced two break points but did not panic, instead he dug deeper and closed out the win moments later.
Asked about the kind of work he is doing to feel “in the zone”, Tsitsipas pointed to Pergantis, who was sat in his press conference at the back of the room.
“Person right there. Kostas. He helps me reach that,” said Tsitsipas.
“He's the person I have been telling you about. He knows me since 10 years old? 12? Yeah, he saw me 12 years old in some courts in Greece. I was competing, playing tournaments.
“He was the first person to walk to see my match, and ended up seeing my dad; they were studying together in university many years ago before I was even born.
“Kostas is a psychologist. What else are you, Kostas? A sports psychologist and advisor?”
Kostas added “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 that helps me with my routines, and we go through it every single day.
“I'm sure we are gonna travel many more tournaments this year.”

Stats of the day

Djokovic’s win over Hurkacz on Friday was his 30th at the Madrid Open. The Serb has now won at least 30 matches at all nine Masters 1000 tournaments.
Alcaraz leads the ATP tour this season with six top-10 victories.
Tsitsipas claimed a tour-leading 27th match-win of the season with his triumph over Andrey Rublev on Friday.
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