© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal met for the third time on Friday in Madrid, with the 19-year-old coming out on top.

Nadal 'Looking Forward With Optimism' Following Alcaraz Defeat

Spaniard was competing for the time since March this week

Rafael Nadal said that despite losing to Carlos Alcaraz at the Mutua Madrid Open Friday, he will remain positive as he looks at the bigger picture following his recent injury setback.

The World No. 4 suffered a rib injury six weeks ago and was competing for the first time since Taylor Fritz ended his perfect start to the season in the Indian Wells final in March.

“The reading of the tournament is I have played three matches and that I came here with hardly any preparation, with no preparation. This is the reality,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “I said that before coming here it was going to be a tough week, even though I have lost to one of the fittest players of the world with no doubts, I even had my opportunities.

“I have played two-and-a-half hours [today] and three matches. This is a positive outcome. From here onwards, just looking forward with optimism and [I’m] happy and excited. We will see what happens. You have to believe.”

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The 35-year-old, who has lifted the trophy in Madrid five times, defeated Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic and David Goffin en route to the quarter-finals. However, Nadal was unable to match Alcaraz’s intensity, with the third seed praising the #NextGenATP star as he looks ahead to Roland Garros.

“He was better than me in several aspects of the match and several aspects of the game, and I need to improve,” Nadal said. “I just accept it naturally with calm and with security that there is a path to continue.

“It's an easy loss to digest in that regard, because we knew what we could expect here, and now because of that, I don't take away any merit from Carlos. Congratulations to him. He's playing great, and I hope the best for him for the rest of the tournament.”

When it comes to returning to Tour in style, Nadal is an expert, with his recent Australian Open triumph an example after he missed the second half of the 2021 season with a foot injury. The 91-time tour-level champ is looking to lean on his past experiences and build further momentum and his fitness over the coming month.

“You just recover that with days and with matches, like yesterday, like the first day, like today. This is the reality," Nadal said. "From there onwards, you just have to continue that path with constant determination, with the correct determination. You know that when you come from a period like the one I came from, you have to accept the things and just go with this determination because in the medium term, we have a goal that is higher than any sadness that I may have for losing.

"I tell you, honestly, my only dream is be in Paris healthy enough and physically good enough to compete at the highest level possible. If that happens, I know it's a tournament that I have been playing well a lot of times in my career. I know very well the place, and why can I not be competitive again and give me one more chance. That could be a dream for me."

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