Now the Spanish great is about to play against the promising youngster in the second round of the Madrid Open.
The 17-year-old Alcaraz defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-0 on Monday to set up the “dream” matchup against the 20-time grand slam champion.
Alcaraz will face his idol on the Magic Box center court on Wednesday, his birthday.
“It will be a dream come true to play against Rafa here,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve wanted to play against him since I was a kid. There will be no better way than while celebrating my 18th birthday.”
Alcaraz, who is competing in Madrid on a wild card, turned pro in 2018 and has been considered by many as Spain’s successor to 34-year-old Nadal. They practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.
He won the under-12 title in Madrid in 2015, and two years later reached the final in the under-16 event. A few years ago, Alcaraz and other kids received PlayStations from Nadal after competing in a tournament.
“I’ll try to be as relaxed as possible,” the 120th-ranked Alcaraz said. “I’ll try to play my game and to keep learning and keep having fun.”
Fabio Fognini, who was disqualified from the Barcelona Open because of foul language, defeated Spanish qualifier Carlos Taberner 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3 to set up an all-Italian clash against Matteo Berrettini in the second round.
In the women’s draw, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty defeated French Open champion Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-4 in a round-of-16 match, while Spaniard Paula Badosa got past Anastasija Sevastova 6-7 (0), 7-6 (3), 6-0.