The world No 2 explained he has watched Nadal’s matches since he started playing tennis and divulged he met the tennis icon for the first time at the Madrid Open.
Alcaraz has faced Nadal three times, with the first matchup coming in the last 32 of the 2021 Madrid Open, where an inexperienced Alcaraz was dismantled 6-1, 6-2.
The pair next faced off in the semi-finals of the 2022 Indian Wells Masters, and Nadal prevailed again – this time 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 – in a close and entertaining battle.
The duo then contested their third and most recent encounter in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open last year, with Alcaraz prevailing 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to earn his first win against his legendary countryman.
The two Spanish stars could renew their rivalry in 2024, with 22-time Major winner Nadal set to return from his lengthy injury layoff in Australia in January. The 37-year-old last competed at the 2023 Australian Open.
Alcaraz did not get the opportunity to take on 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer before the Swiss great retired from the sport in September 2022.
In a video shared by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Alcaraz discussed the players he idolised growing up and revealed Nadal was, and remains, his biggest hero.
“My hero was Rafael Nadal and it’s still Rafael Nadal. Since I started playing tennis, I look up to Rafa every time that I watch his matches,” the 20-year-old said.
“Of course I look up to Roger Federer, but it has always been Rafa. I’ve always watched tennis, you know the big things he has achieved, big matches he has played.
“Yeah, the first time I met him, I was 12 years old. It was in the Mutua Madrid Open, I was playing the under 12, and he was in the semi-final or something like that in the big one. And yeah, I took a photo with him and this was the first time that I was with him.”
Alcaraz recently spoke about the influence of the ‘Big Three’ of Nadal, Federer and Novak Djokovic and how he would have relished the chance to play the Swiss.
“These three great players have had an influence on me and practically all tennis players. I grew up watching them play Grand Slam finals. I’ve always thought I was in [their] place,” the Spaniard told the media in Mexico ahead of an exhibition last month.
“I have worked hard, I had a clear dream that I have pursued. I have had the opportunity to play with Djokovic and Rafa, but not with Federer – I would have loved it.