'With his record this year, Rafael Nadal has lost...', says legend

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'With his record this year, Rafael Nadal has lost...', says legend

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev met for the eighth time in last year's Madrid Masters quarterfinals. Nadal had the upper hand in their first five meetings, and the German turned that around on an indoor court in Paris and London at the end of 2020.

Zverev experienced early defeats in Miami, Monte Carlo and Munich last year and raised his level in Madrid to reach the round of 16. Alexander defeated Kei Nishikori and Daniel Evans in straight sets to set the quarterfinal clash against four-time Caja Magica champion Rafael Nadal.

The German was aware of how difficult it is to beat Rafa on clay. In addition, he knew that Rafa would be highly motivated to perform at his best in front of his fans and defeat him after two consecutive losses. Nadal defeated Carlos Alcaraz and Alexei Popyrin in the first two rounds and wanted more of the same against Zverev.

The Spaniard defeated the German three times on clay in 2017 and 2018. Still, this time it was not for him as Zverev scored a 6-4 6-4 win in an hour and 44 minutes and extended the streak of him against Nadal. "I've beaten Rafa the last few times we've played.

Still, it's a completely different task to do it on clay. When you beat Rafa a few times in a row, no matter where, Rafa will be more motivated to hit back in the next few matches. Here in Madrid the rebound is greater, and the serve passes faster on the court.

The ball flies through the air much faster so it can be played more aggressively compared to the other clay courts. Despite that, I think Rafa is the favorite on any clay court, and that's not going to change."

Nadal will skip the Montecarlo Masters

Against that background, Chris Evert explained to Eurosport that she considers Rafael Nadal's latest injury a minor "hiccup."

"I think with his record this year, he has lost one match so far," Evert told Eurosport. "He had that streak of so many tournaments and so many wins, and he has had a wonderful start to 2022. I think this injury is a hiccup."

Having said that, Evert believes Nadal getting time off from the sport is a boon for the 35-year-old. "I think any time Rafa can rest and take time off, I think is a bonus, is a positive for him," she added. "What comes into effect is the years and years and years before. It is not only what happened three or four weeks ago."