World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz ‘felt bad’ when injured Rafa Nadal was forced to pull out of French Open… as the Spaniard reveals his ‘dream’ to play doubles with the 22-time major winner at Paris Olympics
- Nadal pulled out of the French Open due to a hip injury he suffered in Australia
- Alcaraz is one of the favourites for Paris title which Nadal has claimed 14 times
- The 20-year-old is no longer fazed by playing arenas like Court Philippe Chatrier
World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz says it was a tough moment when he heard compatriot Rafa Nadal was to miss Roland Garros – but that he dreams of sharing a court with the 22-Slam winner here next year in the Paris Olympics doubles.
This Parisian tennis arena without Nadal has an eerie feeling similar to a castle without its king. The grounds are populated with pictures of the Spaniard and shrines to its 14-time winner wherever you look.
The French Open won’t be the same this year without hearing Nadal’s grunts as he somehow hauls himself through a five-set grueller, or seeing him sink to his knees to celebrate winning yet another Coupe des Mousquetaires.
But as the ‘King of Clay’ misses out to recover from an injury that will likely end his sporting year, arise the next prince of tennis: Carlos Alcaraz.
With one Grand Slam to his name and a loose grip on the men’s No 1 ranking, the 20-year-old is here with a genuine chance of continuing a line of Spaniards to thrive on the clay courts of Paris.
Carlos Alcaraz no longer feels fazed by playing on big arenas like Court Philippe Chatrier
‘I felt bad when I heard that Rafa was not able to play here,’ said Alcaraz, who will play a qualifier in the first round. ‘As a fan of tennis, I always love to watch Rafa playing and learning from him.
‘For him to be here around the locker rooms is normally great. So it was tough for me when I heard he was not here.’
Alcaraz was asked if the possibility of teaming up with Nadal next year at the Paris Olympics was a possibility and said: ‘It is a dream. Let’s see what happens. Hopefully he’s going great next year so it could be a dream to play doubles with him.’
The US Open champion insisted he is feeling in fine conditioning and no longer feels fazed by playing on big arenas like Court Philippe Chatrier here.
‘At the beginning when I played against the best players in the best stadiums, it was tough for me to get used to that and stay calm,’ he said. ‘But I learned from those moments.
‘I remember, for example, against Rafa for my first time in Madrid, it was really, really tough. I can name a lot of matches that I didn’t feel comfortable playing. But as I said, I learned from that, and right now I feel great playing in the great stadiums.’