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Nadal: Alcaraz Has Ingredients of a Champion

By Richard Pagliaro

Salad days are coming soon for Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz, says Rafael Nadal.

In a highly-anticipated blockbuster between Spain's bright future and glorious present champion, Nadal rained winners on Carlos Alcaraz's 18th birthday then poured praise on the teenager after dispensing a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing to charge into the Mutua Madrid Open round of 16.

More: Nadal Sweeps Alcaraz, Sends Madrid Message

Citing the 120th-ranked Alcaraz's ground game, humility and hunger, Nadal says the teenager has the ingredients to be a champion and compete for Grand Slam titles.

"I mean, when you make a salad and you are putting ingredients inside the salad, he has, I mean, plenty of ingredients to become a great player. That's the main thing," Nadal said. "Then of course nothing is easy.

"You're gonna have big opponents in front. I mean, nothing is easy in this life. Be one of the best players in the world and fight for the most important titles is something very difficult, but I really believe that he's one of the guys that he can do it."

Nadal asserts Alcaraz has a high ceiling and the teenager has shown it this season.

Playing in just his 12th ATP match, Alcaraz rolled world No. 26 Casper Ruud, who trains at the Rafa Nadal Academy, 6-2, 6-4, to become the youngest ATP semifinalist since Alexander Zverev in 2014 in Marbella.

Tennis Express

The 20-time Grand Slam champion says Alcaraz, coached by former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, already shows a well-rounded game and if he can improve his serve as he grows stronger, Nadal envisions the teenager battling it out with the best in future years.

"When somebody at his age is able to do the things that he's doing is because you have something special, no? And at the same time, he's humble enough to keep working," Nadal said. "He's passionate about the game. So I really believe that he gonna be able to burn cycles very soon, very fast. I really believe that he's a complete player.

"I mean, he's brave, he's able to go to the net very often. Great forehand, great backhand. Of course needs to improve a little bit the serve, but he's just 18 today, so he has plenty of time. As I said, he's humble enough and he's a hard worker, so I don't have a doubt that he will do it, no? His movement is great."

Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open