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Carlos Alcaraz Tops Rafael Nadal in Tiebreak at Inaugural Netflix Slam in Las Vegas

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“OK, I can die now.”

So said a woman seated behind The Hollywood Reporter inside Mandalay Bay’s Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, host of the inaugural The Netflix Slam. She had just snapped a selfie that captured superstars Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz warming up on center court over her shoulder. Sure, it was a dramatic statement but it wasn’t obscene for such an occasion. There’s no shortage of gasp-worthy moments in Sin City, and there’s no doubt many of the 10,000 seated guests could relate to the sentiment.

The Sunday afternoon showdown, the latest in Netflix’s push for live streaming events, pitted two superstar Spaniards in an exhibition match that could be one of the final few times they meet across a net. The fact that it happened was a bit of a coup, too, as it was rescheduled last year due to Nadal’s injuries and arrived just in time as the two pros are headed to Indian Wells this week for the 2024 BNP Paribas Open.

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Thirty-seven-year-old Nadal is returning to the tour after months away due to injury, and he’s played only about a dozen matches since the U.S. Open in 2022. While the question of retirement follows him wherever he goes these days, Nadal said on Saturday that he was feeling good heading into The Netflix Slam. “What puts me in a position to be close to retirement is my body more than anything else because my mind is healthy in terms of passion for what I’m doing,” he said at a press conference attended by THR. Meanwhile, Alcaraz, who has long looked to Nadal for inspiration, has emerged as an undeniable phenomenon after becoming the youngest man to earn the No. 1 ranking, which he punctuated with major championship titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

From left: Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi and Carlos Alcaraz speak during The Netflix Slam media availability event at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on March 2, 2024. Chris Unger/Getty Images

They brought their magic to Las Vegas, with Alcaraz emerging victorious in a thrilling second-set tiebreak, reminiscent of their play at any of the majors. Nadal won the opening set of 6-3, with Alcaraz taking the second at 6-4. They both seemed to hit overdrive in a 10-point tiebreak to decide the winner, and it was a nail-biter. Alcaraz nailed some winners, while Nadal revved up his serves and managed to tie it up at 9-9 with a volley that brought the crowd to its feet. But the youngster matched his energy and rallied to close it out at 14-12, complete with a standing ovation.

There were plenty of famous faces on their feet. The Netflix Slam — produced by Full Day Productions’ Connor Schell and David Chamberlin — brought stars to Vegas including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Charlize Theron, Lindsey Vonn, Danai Gurira, Logan Lerman, Manu Rios, Pau Gasol, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford, Paula Patton and Dave Grohl. Hometown hero Andre Agassi appeared on court to present the championship trophy, and he joined Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mary Joe Fernández and Patrick McEnroe, Prakash Amritraj and Kay Adams for telecast commentary. The event was presented by sponsor French skincare gurus La Roche-Posay.

During an interview with THR, Agassi said he was stoked to see how Las Vegas has emerged as a go-to location for major sports events. “From the Super Bowl to the Raiders, Formula 1, the Stanley Cup — forget it. It’s remarkable. Now to have tennis here, it’s great,” he said. “I mean, I wish it was kind of here when I was playing.”

Watching Nadal and Alcaraz on court has also been nothing short of impressive, he continued. “First of all, they’re another level — athletically, speed, defense, offense, pace, spin trajectories, geometry,” he said. “In a one-on-one sport, there’s always a question of how you impose what you do in a way that just beats one person as opposed to trying to just play great tennis. The greats of the game really understand the nuance of that difference. I’m not trying to be wonderful today. I’m just trying to be better than you. That’s what is very similar is each one of them that brings out their level of dominance.”

Aside from the Nadal and Alcaraz match, Netflix and MGM delivered a program of tennis that included an Ace Challenge featuring John Isner, Sam Querrey, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, as well as mixed doubles match featured the Bryan brothers, Genie Bouchard and Asia Muhammad.

Once the main match was over, Nadal and Alcaraz joined Agassi, Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters and MGM Resorts International president William Hornbuckle for the trophy presentation. Both players also joined Fernandez for brief on court interviews. For his part, Alcaraz said he was excited to come and play in Vegas after last year’s postponement. “I enjoy this atmosphere and playing against Rafa is really, really special for me.”

Nadal returned the compliment and got some laughs when he first admitted, “He’s a big challenge.” That said, “We should be very, very happy to have somebody like Carlos coming up. He’s an amazing player.” Nadal closed his comments by acknowledging that while their paths crossed here, who knows when it will happen again. “As a player, I will not face [Carlos] many times but as a fan, I will keep enjoying him for such a long time.”

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