Rafael Nadal loses comeback match as Carlos Alcaraz comes out on top in Vegas

The highly-anticipated Netflix Slam clash between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz went the way of the youngster as he won 3-6 6-4 7-6 (14-12) in front of a sold-out crowd in Las Vegas. Both players headed into the clash at the Michelob Ultra Arena on the back of injury problems, but there was little sign of either struggling physically in a dramatic affair. And with both reportedly earning around £1million for their appearance, it was Alcaraz, who last month limped out of the Rio Open with a ankle injury, who defied fitness concerns to prevail.

Billed as the Spanish legend vs the young pretender, it was the 37-year-old who made the faster start. He started off proceedings by holding serve, and after earning a break point in the next game, the world No.2 tamely double-faulted to hand Nadal early control.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner continued to look assured until at 3-1 and 30-30 Alcaraz wasted a potential opportunity by going wastefully long with a forehand. Nadal duly held and then at 5-2 gave an impromptu interview between games live on Netflix: “I’m playing much better than expected,” he said. “I’m enjoying this amazing crowd.”

The reigning Wimbledon champion then held to stay in the set, but Nadal was in no mood to let up as he hammered down three aces en route to taking the next game – and the first-set – 6-3. But early in the second, Alcaraz – 17 years younger than his esteemed opponent – upped the ante.

At 1-0 he earned three break points, and this time it was Nadal’s turn to double fault under pressure. With his movement now appearing much-improved at 3-0 he had Nadal on the brink at 0-30, only for the ‘King of Clay’ to rally and reel off four straight points.

He forced deuce in the next game, but Alcaraz held his nerve and then at 4-1 down Nadal, impressing in his first match back since the Brisbane Open in January, again summoned all of his fighting qualities to save three break points before a forehand smash kept him alive in the second set. And then at 5-3 Alcaraz, the pendulum swung again as Nadal earned the crucial break.

But a sublime drop shot in the next game gave Alcaraz a set point, and a wicked forehand ensured he then levelled the match. That forced a deciding 10-point tie-breaker, with the crowd greeting both players with raucous cheers as they emerged for the shoot-out.

The tension was then ramped up by a delay though, as medical staff attended to a spectator. When the action resumed promptly afterwards, it was Alcaraz who served first and took the first mini-break to open up a 3-1 lead.

But the advantage was short-lived as the two players went blow-for-blow. A series of line challenges only served to ramp up the crowd noise, and then at 7-7 came a seemingly decisive moment.

A complete mis-hit from Nadal gave Alcaraz a huge opening but after fashioning a 9-7 lead, Nadal won the next point before an incredible passing forehand took matters to 9-9. That duly became 12-12, but from there Alcaraz earned a sixth match point and finally ended matters when Nadal went long – and was then presented with the inaugural Netflix Trophy by tennis legend Andre Agassi.