Categories
Events

Introducing The Netflix Slam

By Vanessa Taylor and Logan Webster

Share this article

The first Netflix Slam was staged at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, on a purpose-built board court.

Appropriating the term “Slam” for exhibition events that are not Slams in the traditional sense of Grand Slams has become a thing this year.

In February, the “Six Kings Slam” was announced, and will feature Rafa Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic, Jannik Sinner, Daniil Medvedev and Holger Rune. The event will be held in Saudi Arabia this coming October.

The Netflix Slam was a global livestream on Sunday 3 March – at prime time in Spain. An edited version of the event for on-demand streaming remains on the Netflix platform.

The Spanish opponents. Photo: Getty Images

Narrator Jon Hamm explained the synopsis of The Netflix Slam as, “A tale of a pair of stars a generation apart. A tale of a pair of Spaniards who become two of the most famous athletes in the world…there will only be so much time when Rafa and Carlos can share a court like this and do battle…”

Of course, Nadal is now 37 and Alcaraz just 20, so their paths cannot cross for much longer.

The older Spaniard has won 22 Gland Slams, including an incredible 14 French Opens; the younger has two and is the current Wimbledon champion and world No. 2.

For what it’s worth, their last meeting was in the quarter finals of the 2022 Madrid Open, which the younger man took 6-2 1-6 6-3, to go 1-2 in their head to head.

In Vegas, the match was a chance for spectators to assess how both players are recovering from injury before the Miami Open, and especially the French Open.

Alcaraz suffered an ankle injury after only two points in his first match of the Rio Open last month. He retired from that match after two games.

Carlos Alcaraz playing in The Netflix Slam. Photo: Getty Images

Nadal injured his left hip at the Brisbane Open in early January, after 12 months off the tour due to his other injured hip. He has acknowledged this may be his last year as a tennis professional.

Perhaps for that reason, the Las Vegas crowd seemed to be a little more behind Nadal.

Commentator Andre Agassi, who had taken the players on a tour of his hometown, described the match as a “barometer” of their form.

As Nadal explained to interviewer Mary Joe Fernandez, “For me, it’s a good practice match.”

Not surprisingly, neither player was at their absolute best, though both had moments of brilliance.

In the first set, Nadal went 3-0 by replying to a lob with his trademark back-to-the-net, not-looking, over-the-shoulder volley.

Rafael Nadal performing the remarkable volley winner. Photo: Getty Images

He earned himself two set points and won it on the first with a great serve down the middle for 6-3.

The situation reversed in the second set with Alcaraz going up 3-0.

He used one of his own trademarks, a great angled volley drop shot to bring up his game point for 5-2, which he claimed. But Nadal revived a little to just lose the set 4-6.

The format then required a match tiebreak to decide the winner.

Fittingly, this was the most exciting part of the match.

It was point for point, to 5-5 when a video review revealed that Nadal’s shot had been in by the barest margin. Soon he had 7-5, but Alcaraz scored with a great second serve and in the next point, a powerful cross court forehand return for 7-7.

A wry smile crept over Nadal’s face after he caught the top of the frame while attempting a big topspin forehand and the ball flew into the rafters and never came down.

Alcaraz gained two match points at 9-7 through another delicate drop shot. But he couldn’t take those opportunities. Nadal won the rally for the next point and then served to stay in the match. The crowd went wild as he passed his opponent down the line through the narrowest of spaces to level at 9-9.

Rafael Nadal happy with a winner. Photo: Skysports

It was then Alcaraz’s turn to hit a winner down the line and bring up his third match point. Again he missed it when an exciting rally full of variety finished with him hitting into the net.

An ace down the middle brought up another match point, but he couldn’t get convert it. He and Nadal exchanged lost points as they looped the ball out with errant forehands. Alcaraz did the exact same again, on his fifth match point, and the score was now 12-12.

A forehand into the open court for an easy winner gave him his sixth match point. When a let cord sent Nadal’s ball long, Alcaraz finally won The Netflix Slam.

The victor. Photo: Getty Images

Title image by Netflix

Update

Four days later, Nadal withdrew from the Indian Wells tournament.

Alcaraz won Indian Wells, defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final, 7-6(5) 6-1.

Update #2

On 15 March, Rafael Nadal announced his “last minute decision” to play in the Barcelona Open.

Share this article