Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I stood eight meters behind to return his serves'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I stood eight meters behind to return his serves'
Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I stood eight meters behind to return his serves'

Rafael Nadal has won 13 Roland Garros titles since 2005, experiencing only three losses at his beloved Major and standing as a dominant figure. Unlike Roland Garros, Nadal is yet to conquer an indoor Paris Masters, reaching eight quarter-finals and playing in the title match but never making the last push at the season's last Masters 1000 event.

Nadal played in the Paris final on a debut in 2007, losing to David Nalbandian and never reaching the title match again. 2020 could have been a year to change his fortune at this tournament, with no Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem in the draw.

Rafa was the top favorite and reached his fifth Paris Masters semi-final before experiencing a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Alexander Zverev. The German won back-to-back titles in Cologne before Paris to gather momentum, playing well in the French capital to reach the seventh Masters 1000 final.

The return was a massive problem for Rafa that week, and Alexander took full advantage of that, hitting a service winner in 30% of the points in his games and getting broken only once to keep the pressure on the other side.

That lone break was not enough for the Spaniard to stay safe after giving serve away thrice to propel the youngster over the top. Nadal said he gave his everything to tame the rival's serve and prolong the exchanges, standing far behind the baseline on the return but not doing enough to take at least a set.

Zverev fired 37 winners and 18 unforced errors and stayed focused in the second set's closing stages to seal the deal in style. With nothing working his way on the return in the first set, Nadal moved way back in the second to earn some chances, pulling the break back but suffering another at 5-5 to push Zverev over the top.

Alexander forged the advantage with a break in the opener's game three and confirmed it with a service winner for 3-1 after 14 minutes.

Rafael Nadal scored only one break against Alexander Zverev at 2020 Paris Masters.

Nadal landed a backhand down the line winner at 2-4 to stay in touch but earned no chances in the return games, as Zverev clinched the opener with a drop shot winner at 5-4.

Rafa got broken at 1-1 in set number two following a weak volley and wasted two break chances in game six after two winners from his opponent. Serving at 2-4, Nadal fended off four break points and broke back in game eight to lock the result at 4-4.

Rafa held at love for the first time in game nine to forge the advantage before Alexander landed an ace to grab the next one. After a lucky net cord winner, the German earned a break chance in game 11 and seized it when the Spaniard sprayed a backhand mistake.

Zverev sealed the deal with a hold at 15 at 6-5 to reach the third consecutive ATP final. "Zverev is playing well, and his serve is enormous. I decided to go eight meters behind the baseline to have a chance, but it was too late," Rafael Nadal said.

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