Struggling with a rib injury, Rafael Nadal was forced to skip the start of his beloved clay season. The Spaniard withdrew from Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and he should be back in action in a couple of weeks in Madrid. Rafa lost to Alexander Zverev in the quarter-final in Caja Magica a year ago, failing to reach the clay-court Masters 1000 semi-final for the third straight event!
Seeking the first Madrid Open title since 2017, the Spaniard experienced the third consecutive loss against the German and the first on clay. Speaking about the match, Rafa stated that he had the upper hand in the opening six games, serving well and forging a 4-2 advantage.
Staying calm, Alexander erased the deficit in the seventh game and never looked back, rattling off ten of the final 14 games to beat the home favorite 6-4, 6-4 en route to his fourth Masters 1000 crown and the second in Madrid.
Rafael Nadal made a good start vs. Alexander Zverev before losing in straight sets.
Zverev had a massive advantage on the court, hitting almost 30 winners and reducing Nadal's shots to control the rallies. Rafa grabbed that early break but could not do anything on the return in the rest of the encounter.
He suffered three breaks to propel the rival through and leave the tournament earlier than expected. Returning at 2-4, Alexander passed Rafa at the net to pull the break back and gain confidence and momentum. From 30-0 at 4-4, Nadal wasted a game point and got broken when his backhand found the net, finding himself a set down soon after that.
Zverev had the advantage in the second and claimed a break with a forehand down the line winner at 2-2. He kept the lead until the end and moved over the top with a hold in game ten. "It is always a balance between your poor tennis and the opponent's high level.
But, of course, it was more the second than the first. I initially had the match under control, playing well in the opening six games and probably better than Alexander. Serving for 5-2, I produced a disaster and played another terrible service game from 30-0 at 4-4.
It was not easy to remain confident after that, not in these conditions and against a rival from the top. I did my best but could not control my serve. Well done to Alexander; he played his game, and his level did not surprise me. He is ranked at the top, and you should expect this kind of tennis from him," Rafael Nadal said.