Teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz added the scalp of world number one Novak Djokovic to his stellar clay-court collection by beating the Serbian great in three sets to reach the final of the Mutua Madrid Open.
The Spaniard, who only turned 19 on Thursday, dumped countryman Rafael Nadal out of the tournament despite struggling with an ankle problem throughout Friday’s quarter-final.
And on Saturday evening Alcaraz followed up his shock win with a last-four performance full of resilience and flair to inflict a 6-7 (7) 7-5 7-6 (7) defeat on Djokovic, 34. The Murcian will meet defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany in Sunday’s final.
After becoming the first player to conquer both Nadal and Djokovic in the same clay-court tournament, Alcaraz said: “It’s spectacular right now. I am very happy. I’m very excited to be able to play these kind of matches, to be able to beat Rafa yesterday, to be able to beat the number one today.
“So I’m super happy. It gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow’s final.”
Alcaraz broke Djokovic in the first game to make a strong start but the Serbian rallied to clinch the first tie-break.
The 19-year-old Miami Open winner then exploited some weak serving from his opponent to level the match and, after consistently putting pressure on the Djokovic serve in the decider, demonstrated some steely focus beyond his years to close out the match despite being faced down by a 20-time grand slam champion.
The teenager said: “You have to try to go for the match. In those decisive moments is when you see the good players and the top players, that is where you can tell the difference between a good player and a top player, like it’s Djokovic, Rafa, (Roger) Federer, or all the players that are ultimately there for a long time.
“I want to make a difference on that. I want to make a difference, because in those key, decisive matches, I want to go for the match.”
Asked if he had any regrets about the way he handled the rising star, Djokovic said: “Yeah, yeah. Many times I gave him free points there. His kick and altitude (on his serve) here is huge, and it was just difficult to deal with his ball, and I wasn’t feeling my return from that side.
“He was serving a lot of kick just to put himself in a good position. I just didn’t manage to handle that well.”
Zverev played impressive baseline tennis to defeat Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who managed to force a third set but was eventually overwhelmed by the German 6-4 3-6 6-2.
In the women’s final, Ons Jabeur fought back to beat Jessica Pegula in three sets and claim her first WTA 1000 title.
The Tunisian number eight seed came through 7-5 0-6 6-2 in just under two hours against American Pegula.
It was a second career title for Jabeur, who is projected to return to world number seven in next week’s updated rankings.
Jabeur, who recovered from 4-1 down to take the opening set, becomes the first African player to win a top-level WTA event, adding to her title in Birmingham last year.
“I am glad that I came back from 6-0 (in the second set), because it was really tough. She was really good, putting a lot of pressure, playing kind of the game that I don’t like,” Jabeur said.
“I know that I was playing good. I knew that it (another title win) had to come, but like not now on clay, to be honest, I was more excited about the grass season, but I am so happy that I didn’t wait long.
“I have to be smart in Rome, to really take my opportunity. I am going to do my best to go as far as I can and of course prepare for the biggest challenge – French Open.”