Carlos Alcaraz is a terrific player, but after last night’s loss, is it time to pipe down on young Nadal comparisons?

Rafael Nadal at the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai Opening Ceremonies in Shanghai, China - November 12, 2005. (Photo by Cynthia Lum/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal at the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai Opening Ceremonies in Shanghai, China - November 12, 2005. (Photo by Cynthia Lum/Getty Images) /

Last night, we witnessed one of the shock results of the year. Current world number 1 and reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz suffered a shock defeat in the quarter-final of the Canadian Masters. The loss, the first at Masters level since losing to Marozsan in Rome, will put plenty of unwarranted pressure the youngster amid an already strange timeline of comparisons to the big 3. However, despite being just 20 years old, is it truly fair to compare the likes of young Rafael Nadal to Alcaraz? In his breakout season, Nadal won a whopping 11 titles in his 2005 teenage year, losing at Masters virtually to nobody besides Roger Federer.

While Nadal did not win a grand slam outside of clay in 2005, 2006 or 2007, Rafael Nadal’s performances at Masters 1000 level can be described as objectively better. Facing a prime edition of Roger Federer in each of his battles in his formative years, Nadal, if truth be told, did not have the luxury of facing the competition we see today. 35 year old Djokovic beat him in the semi-final of Roland Garros, and pushed him to 5 sets in the most recent Wimbledon final. Additionally, last night’s loss is also the second time at Masters level this year that Alcaraz has lost a tournament that was virtually his to lose.

Despite the comparisons and dialogue in tennis circles currently pointing the way of Alcaraz being superior to young Nadal, if we are to be very honest, it is hard to imagine a young Nadal losing to Marozsan or Tommy Paul at Masters 1000 level. In fact, if you want to imagine the competition that young Rafael Nadal faced, picture a player who made 10 consecutive grand slam finals in the 2020s. This player wins 3 grand slams in 2020, 2 grand slams in 2021, 3 grand slams in 2022 and 3 grand slams in 2023. The tournament he didn’t make the final of? He loses in the semi-final of the 2021 Australian Open. In the one out of the four majors he doesn’t win (but makes the final of) -picture this player only being beat by a younger and more energetic version of the greatest clay court player in history. In your heart of hearts, do you truly believe that Carlos Alcaraz could go toe-to-toe with this player? This player would be a 2020’s version of prime Roger Federer. Instead, many pundits use the arguments (which are very valid, if taken out of context) of youngest world number 1, year end world number 1, and a Wimbledon win to discredit the achievements of a young Nadal over Carlos Alcaraz.

All in all, do you believe the claims that Carlos Alcaraz is better than a young Nadal ?