Nadal, Alcaraz compete at Netflix Slam in Las Vegas

The Netflix Slam was a spectacle fit for Las Vegas and the stars put on a show.

LAS VEGAS–Las Vegas is always down for a spectacle, and that’s what Netflix brought to town this weekend with the Netflix Slam. In the streaming giant’s first ever live-streamed sporting event, Carlos Alcaraz defeated his mentor Rafael Nadal in a match tiebreak to win the Slam 3-6, 6-4, 14-12 at Michelob Ultra Arena inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

While just an exhibition, it appeared both players were using the match as a tune-up for the upcoming Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells next week. For Rafa especially, the match was extra telling as it was his return to the court after his withdrawal from the Australian Open. He looked better than many expected in the match, with plenty of online observers remarking about the competitive nature of the battle between him and Alcaraz.

The 2024 season could very well be Nadal’s last season on the tour, although he has not fully committed to a retirement date. It’s no secret that Nadal can’t prepare for the Grand Slams like he used to because of the wear and tear that age and injuries put his body through.

“It’s an impossible challenge because for the last two years, I was not able to prepare in the proper way, being honest. How I prepared myself before the last two years, my preparation probably was similar to any other event,” Nadal said, “You know in your mind that you are playing the most important events, but in terms of preparation, I just tried to to be ready for every time that I’m on court. It doesn’t matter the kind of tournament.”

He showed signs of his vintage self in the match, impressing with a behind-the-back forehand that served as the highlight of the match even in a loss. He showed some of his trademark fire when he drew even with Alcaraz in the tie break, unleashing a passionate fist pump toward the crowd of fans on the Las Vegas Strip.

The event was also serving as a tune-up for the world #2 and wunderkind Carlos Alcaraz as he suffered an ankle injury in the opening round at Rio a few weeks ago. Alcaraz is heading into the spring swing as the defending Wimbledon champion after completing his rise to the top of tennis in 2023. Yet, Alcaraz still looks up to his boyhood idol Nadal:

“That spirit that he has and he shows every time that he steps on the court, that fighting spirit that he never gives up on the ball and the way that he finds solutions when things are not going well. I think that’s incredible. I would say that’s the thing that I learned from him that I most tried to put in my game,” Alcaraz said.

It was an interesting event in the sense that the production was more akin to that of a red-carpet award show or a gala than a sporting event, which checks out as it was produced by Full Day Productions. You may recognize that name from the Oscars, ESPYS, or the NFL Honors. It felt like the kind of event that would have come to the old Las Vegas sports scene, when it thrived off one-off events.

While moderating a press event with Nadal and Alcaraz on Saturday night, tennis legend and Las Vegas native Andre Agassi spoke about the ever-changing and growing sports scene in the city.

“When I turned pro years ago, there was about 300,000 people that lived in this town, and I would travel the world representing Vegas. Answering some very basic questions such as what’s it like to live in a hotel?” said Agassi. “Vegas is more than just a strip. So to watch it evolve to a point where now we’re seeing not just sports coming here, but we’re seeing the greatest environments for sports to participate in the Super Bowl and and Formula One now here. It’s remarkable for me.”

“This is a culture of if we dream it, we can build it. Our skyline is a representation of that. And so we dream it.”