Rafael Nadal: 'I went eight meters behind to return Alexander Zverev's serve'

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Rafael Nadal: 'I went eight meters behind to return Alexander Zverev's serve'

Unlike at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal is yet to find a winning path at the Paris Masters, never winning the title from eight trips to a premium ATP indoor event. Nadal played in the Paris final on a debut in 2007, losing to David Nalbandian and never reaching the title match again.

Advancing into the quarter-final every time he would play in Paris, Rafa is yet to take an extra step and lift the trophy he is missing in his collection. 2020 could have been a year to change all that, with no Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem in the draw.

Rafa was the top favorite and reached his fifth Paris semi-final, only to suffer a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Alexander Zverev. The German won back-to-back titles in Cologne before Paris, gathering momentum and playing well to reach the seventh Masters 1000 final at 23.

Nadal earned three wins in Paris but was never comfortable under a roof, battling past Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta and not performing a similar comeback against Zverev, who proved to be too strong. The return was a massive problem for Rafa this week, and Alexander grabbed full advantage of that, hitting a service winner in 30% of the points in his games and getting broken only once.

It wasn't enough for the Spaniard to stay safe, giving serve away thrice to propel the youngster over the top. The German fired 37 winners and 18 unforced errors, delivering 20 direct points more than the Spaniard and staying focused in the second set's closing stages to seal the deal in straight sets.

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 game three, confirming it with a service winner for 3-1 after 14 minutes.

Rafael Nadal scored only one break against Alexander Zverev in Paris.

Nadal landed a backhand down the line winner at 2-4 to stay in touch, earning no chances in the return games and allowing Zverev to claim 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 the German hit two winners. Serving at 2-4, Nadal fended off four break points to extend his opportunities, standing much stronger after his first break in game eight.

Rafa held at love for the first time in game nine to forge the advantage, sending the pressure to the other side of the court but achieving nothing while returning at 5-4. Alexander landed an ace to grab that game and earned a break chance in the next one after a lucky net cord winner.

Nadal gave serve away when his backhand landed wide before Zverev held at 15 to seal the deal and advance into the third straight 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.