Rome: Rafa Nadal said Carlos Alcaraz’s rise in tennis is good for the sport but people must stop comparing the two Spaniards and let his teenaged compatriot enjoy his career without the pressure of having to live up to their expectations.
Alcaraz, 19, emerged as the next big Grand Slam contender after he beat his idol Nadal and Novak Djokovic en route to the Madrid title last week, his second Masters title after winning the Miami Open in March.
“The only thing that we can do is enjoy the career of an amazing player like Carlos. Will be better, even if it’s interesting, you stop comparing him to me,” Nadal told reporters in Rome.
“If he’s able to win 25 Grand Slams, it’s going to be amazing for him and for our country, and I will be happy for him. But let him enjoy his personal career.
“Don’t put pressure, extra pressure, on him. Don’t ask me every time... I am super happy to have an amazing player like him in our country.”
Comparisons with Nadal - who won his first major aged 19 at Roland Garros - were inevitable but the 21-times Grand Slam winner did not want to add to the pressure ahead of the French Open later this month.
“I enjoyed my personal career. I think I am super happy the way that I was able to manage my tennis career. It is his moment now to manage his personal career the way that he wants it,” Nadal added.
“We cannot be, all the time, thinking about how was it, how he is today. He is what he is, he’s fantastic. Probably in 2005, I will not say about myself that I was fantastic, but I think I was quite good too.
Iga Swiatek moves on
Meanwhile, champion Iga Swiatek breezed past Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse with a 6-3, 6-0 victory to move into last-16 while Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann ended Karolina Pliskova’s run of reaching three successive Rome finals with 6-2 4-6 6-4 win.
World number one Swiatek, who was given a bye into the second round, extended her winning run to 24 matches after converting seven break points to wrap up the match in just 68 minutes.
The Pole, who comes back after skipping the Madrid Open due to a shoulder injury, has fond memories of Rome - where she won her first WTA 1000 crown - and is looking to add to this year’s titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Stuttgart.
“I’m pretty proud I could get into the rhythm today, just take some lessons during the match and improve my game, game by game. That was pretty solid match for me,” Swiatek told reporters.
Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who became the first African player to win a WTA 1000 title in Madrid over the weekend, also moved to the next round on Wednesday after beating Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-2.
“It’s never easy to play Ajla. I knew it was going to be a physical match,” Jabeur said.