The four-time Caja Magica champion Rafael Nadal stayed empty-handed in front of the home fans in Madrid for the third straight season, losing to Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes. Alexander had the upper hand over Rafa in the battle of former Madrid Open champions, playing aggressive tennis and delivering his third straight triumph against the Spaniard and the first on clay from four encounters, previously winning only one set.
Nadal struggled on the first serve and couldn't do much on the return, creating only two break chances and seizing one of those to open a 4-2 lead in the first set. From that moment, the German took control and won ten of the last 14 games, holding the strings of the encounter in his hands and sailing into the semis where he faces Dominic Thiem on Saturday.
Zverev created six break points and converted three, two in the opener and the last one in the middle of the second set to move over the top.
Rafael Nadal hit only six winners against Alexander Zverev and finished his run in QF.
Madrid was Nadal's third clay-court event this spring and the second where he failed to reach the semi-final, losing in the quarters in Monte Carlo and winning the Barcelona Open after saving a match point versus Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Spaniard hit six winners and 17 unforced errors, standing miles behind Zverev's 28-25 ratio and trailing in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to hand the victory to his opponent. They kicked off the action with five comfortable holds before Nadal broke at love at 3-2 following Zverev's double fault.
Alexander broke back in the next game after forcing Rafa's error at the net and saved a break point in game eight to level the score at 4-4. The German secured another return game in game nine and closed the opener with an ace for 6-4.
Struggling to impose his strokes, Nadal got broken at 2-2 in set number two following Zverev's forehand down the line winner and faced two more break points at 2-4. The Spaniard saved those to bring the game home and extend his chances but couldn't do anything on the return in the entire set. Showing no sign of nerves, Alexander held at 15 in game ten to seal the deal and remain on the title course.