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No reign in Spain – Zverev stuns Nadal to reach Madrid semis

Alexander Zverev earned his first ever win over Rafael Nadal on clay, defeating the Spaniard 6-4, 6-4 to set a semi-final clash with Dominic Thiem at the Madrid Open.

Alexander Zverev, Munich, 2021 Imago / Panoramic
  • What happened? Alexander Zverev topped Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the Madrid Open, 6-4 6-4.
  • Why it matters? The German earned his first career victory on clay over five-time Madrid champion Nadal, and his third overall against the Spaniard.
  • You will also learn: How many consecutive sets Zverev has now won against Nadal.

Rafael Nadal’s seven-match winning streak came to an end on Friday at Madrid, as Alexander Zverev defeated the King of Clay 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals at the Madrid Open. The 24-year-old world No 6 stretches his personal winning streak to three victories against Nadal – he has won his last six sets against the Spaniard, and will face Dominic Thiem in semi-final action on Saturday.

Zverev hits his stride as Nadal struggles mightily

The contest was a tale of two players performing at opposite ends of their talent spectrums. Zverev was in command throughout and he never wavered as he got close to the finish line. The German struck 28 winners against just six for Nadal, including 18 forehand winners to just four forehand winners for Nadal.

Nadal hit six winners against 17 unforced errors for the match, while Zverev converted three of his six break point opportunities. The German did not face a break point in the final set, and played well from 4-3, 30-all, which was one of the few times the pressure could have affected him.

Zverev won 82 percent of his first-serve points, while Nadal was able to win just 62 percent of his own and did not hit a single ace.

Nadal: Always a Balance

When asked after the match if Nadal felt the result was more about Zverev’s stellar play or his own difficulties, the Spaniard said it was a combination.

Nadal cited a critical seventh game of the opening set, in which he led by a break but was broken for 4-3.

“Always a balance, but yes, of course, more the second than the first,” he said. “I had the match under control at the beginning, playing well for six games, probably playing better than him, than serving for 5-2, I did a disaster, and then another bad game with my serve with 30-love, and then of course facing one of the best players in the world, under these circumstances, with this speed of the court, it’s very difficult to still be confident.”

“Yeah I tried but the serve was difficult to control today, and well done for him.”

Zverev agreed that the turning point was his break for 3-4 in the opening set. He said it changed the tone of the match completely.

“I think maybe the forehand break point miss by Rafa, at 4-3, changed the momentum a little bit. I kind of got my aggression up a little bit point by point and after that I felt well on the court,” Zverev said.

Zverev: One of the biggest wins of my career 

The German will certainly relish this triumph, even as he looks ahead to another important clash with Dominic Thiem on Saturday. The 2018 Madrid champion improves to 13-2 lifetime at the event. But this victory is his sweetest so far at the Magic Box.

“Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa, it’s the toughest thing to do in our sport,” said Zverev. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible, but the tournament is not over yet and I’m looking forward to playing Dominic who is another great clay-court player.”

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