The 5 biggest age gaps between ATP opponents: Rafael Nadal vs Darwin Blanch – 21 years

Shahida Jacobs
Darwin Blanch v Rafael Nadal age gap
Darwin Blanch v Rafael Nadal age gap

Tennis great Rafael Nadal will take on teenager Darwin Blanch in the first round of the 2024 Madrid Open and there is an incredible 21-year age gap between the two players.

But it is not quite the biggest in ATP Tour history as that honour goes to two Austrians while rising star Carlos Alcaraz and his fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez also feature on the list following their clash a few years ago.

The 5 biggest age gaps between opponents since 1990:

5. Rafael Nadal v Darwin Blanch – 21 years, 3 months and 25 days

Darwin Blanch was born on September 28, 2007 while Rafael Nadal’s date of birth is June 3, 1986 which puts the age gap at just over 21 years.

The 16-year-old Blanch was given a wildcard entry for his maiden ATP Masters 1000 event, but he would surely never have dreamed about facing one of the greatest tennis players of all time in his opening match.

And he had the perfect response after it was revealed he would take on 37-year-old Nadal in the first round of the Madrid Open as he posted a selfie with his hand covering his mouth and the caption: “Guys I play Nadal wtf.”

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READ MORE: Who is Darwin Blanch, the 16-year-old US star playing Rafael Nadal in Madrid?

4. Ivo Karlovic vs Felix Auger-Aliassime – 21 years, 5 months and 11 days

The big-serving Ivo Karolovic met teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime in their one and only match in the first round of the 2019 Maharashtra Open.

The 39-year-old Karlovic (date of birth February 28, 1979) defeated the 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime (date of August 8, 2000) 6-4, 7-5 and the age gap was the largest on the ATP Tour since 2011.

3. Feliciano Lopez vs Carlos Alcaraz – 21 years, 7 months, 15 days

Spaniards Feliciano Lopez (DOB: September 20, 1981) and Carlos Alcaraz (DOB: May 5, 2003) bumped Karlovic and Auger-Aliassime down the list when they met in the second round of the 2021 Andalucia Open on home turf.

The 39-year-old Lopez was seeded sixth while the 17-year-old Alcaraz was handed a wildcard for the main draw, but it was the teenager who emerged with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory. Alcaraz went on to reach the quarter-final before losing to compatriot Jaume Munar. Of course, the next year Alcaraz shot to fame as he won the US Open and became world No 1.

2. Dick Norman vs Daniel Berta – 21 years, 8 months and 25 days

Like Blanch, Daniel Berta was also just 16 years old when he met the 38-year-old Dick Norman at the 2009 Ordina Open in the Netherlands.

The wildcard from Sweden (DOB: November 26, 1992) made his top-level debut at the event, but went down 6-2, 6-3 against Norman (DOB: March 1, 1971).

According to the official ATP website, that was one of only two ATP appearances for Berta with the other one also coming in 2009 when he lost in the first round in Bastad.

1. Thomas Muster vs Dominic Thiem – 25 years, 11 months, 1 day

The Austrian pair of Thomas Muster and Dominic Thiem both received wildcards into their home event at the 2011 Erste Bank Open.

The one was on his way out of tennis having achieved big things during his career as Muster won the 1995 French Open and also topped the ATP Rankings.

The other was a rising star of Austrian tennis as the 18-year-old Thiem was just starting his career.

The 44-year-old Muster (DOB: October 2, 1967) was ranked 1,078 while Thiem (DOB: September 3, 1993) was down at No 1,890.

But it was the No 1,890 who won the battle of the generations as Thiem secured a 6-2, 6-3 win over his compatriot.

Muster played one more match before he retired later in the year while Thiem went on to win the 2020 US Open and a career-high No 3 in the rankings.