After a couple of early exits in Miami, Monte Carlo and Munich due to an elbow injury, Alexander Zverev has raised his level in Madrid. The German beat Kei Nishikori and Daniel Evans to reach the quarter-final at the event where he claimed the title in the past, hoping for another strong run against the five-time Madrid Open winner Rafael Nadal.
Alexander claimed the Madrid Open crown in dominant style three years ago, barely facing a break point in five matches and finding a perfect balance between aggressive tennis and strong defense. Zverev feels confident about his chances at Caja Magica this week again, hoping to beat Nadal for the third straight time.
The German understands that Rafa plays his best tennis on the slowest surface, praising the Spaniard's movement on clay and saying he has to bring his best tennis and control the rallies if he wants to stand a chance.
Rafa will seek the fourth triumph over Alexander from as many encounters on clay, trying to win the first Madrid crown since 2017.
Alexander Zverev will try to beat Rafael Nadal for the first time on clay in Madrid.
"I've beaten Rafa the last few times that we've played, but to do that on clay is a completely different task.
I've had some tough battles. When you beat him a few times in a row, it doesn't matter where it is, Rafa will be more motivated to beat you in the next matches. There's a higher bounce here in Madrid, and the serve goes through the court quicker.
The ball flies through the air much faster, so you can play more aggressively in comparison to the other clay courts. But still, I think Rafa is the favorite anywhere he goes; that's not going to change. He moves better on a clay court than he does on a hard court, and it's not easy to hit winners against him.
I have to go for my shots and remain aggressive. When you play against the 'Big 3,' you play in the later stages of a tournament and have to bring your best tennis to stand a chance. I've also gotten killed by all of them a few times in my life; I hope that wouldn't be the case against Rafa," Alexander Zverev said.