Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Open. GETTY IMAGES

If Paris 2024 organisers were hoping for a headliner tennis event in their upcoming Games schedule, Carlos Alcaraz was happy to provide a grand slam billboard on Tuesday, when he speculated on a possible dream duo with fellow Spaniard Rafa Nadal in the men’s doubles brackett.

It’s been a rough ride for the all-time tennis great lately, who later in the day lost to Jiri Lehecka in his final Madrid Open and was treated to a farewell ceremony featuring highlights of his five titles in the Spanish capital, with the home fans cheering his name late into the night.

Nadal’s latest defeat, however, did not deter Alcaraz from forecasting that he will play next to the 37-year-old at the Paris Olympics "if everything goes well." The tennis tournament, which runs from July 27 to August 4, takes place at Roland Garros where Nadal, who will be 38 by then, has won a record 14 French Open singles titles. He is scheduled to give it another go in what is expected to be his final participation, when the Grand Slam kicks off on May 20. He has been hesitant, however, to confirm that he will indeed play, as he tries to fine-tune his body, marred by injuries during the past two years. "I will not play in Paris if I am the way I am now. If Roland Garros were today, I wouldn't take to the court. That’s the reality," he told a group of reporters before his Madrid Open debut.

But Alcaraz, just 20 years old himself, seemed optimistic that the prized duo could pair up in the Olympics, as the Game’s opening ceremony is set for July 26th, a month and a half after the Roland Garros final. Speaking to the media after extending his Madrid Open winning streak to a record-equalling 14 and reaching the quarter-finals, the Spaniard said he had spoken "a little" with Nadal about teaming up in Paris, but that “there is a long way to go till it gets underway."

Alcaraz has had his own physical issues, as the two-time Grand Slam singles champion has been nursing an arm injury and acknowledged that it was far from a done deal. "It will be difficult. Considering we are not at our physical peak, it will be tough to play both a tournament and the Olympics.” Both superstars compete at an elite level on all surfaces, but excel in clay, and now the hope is to find a tournament that allows for their much-needed ramp-up to Paris 2024. Not an easy task, by any means. While teasing the double trouble dream scenario at the upcoming Games, the young phenom admitted as much. "On clay, the next two tournaments are Rome and Roland Garros, which are hugely important to both of us in terms of the singles.”

The defending Madrid Open champion spoke before facing Russian Andrey Rublev on Wednesday at the Caja Magica court, as Spain’s title hopes ride solely on his shoulders. It was well past midnight when Nadal bowed out to Lehecka despite delivering a hard fight, producing some trademark forehand winners in the second set and repeated chants of "Sí, se puede!" (Yes, we can!) by the home crowd. The 30th seed from Czechia, however, prevailed in a 7-5, 6-4 victory, the biggest win of his career. Lehecka will meet Daniil Medvedev, another Russian, in Thursday’s quarter-finals.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner put on a brave face, the loss not withstanding. "Thank you to everyone that has helped me in my career. It hasn't finished yet. It's a gift what you've given me here. The emotion that I get from this experience in Madrid, from the Spanish public... I was lucky as a child to do the job that I love. I feel super fortunate to have lived the life that I've lived. I couldn't ask for anything more. I'm happy. It was a very special week for me, very positive and very emotional. I had the opportunity to play one more time here on this court," Nadal said.

Despite the many hurdles ahead, the possible pairing of two generational talents from the same country seems too good to ignore by either. "We have said how awesome it would be to play a tournament before the Olympics. I have to see how I my body responds in regards to the Games. If all goes well, we will play doubles there," Alcaraz concluded.