Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev have played eight times on the Tour, with the Spanish star scoring wins in the opening five encounters. In 2016 and 2017, Zverev had shown he can deal with Nadal's strokes, pushing him to the limits in Indian Wells and the Australian Open before losing ground in the next three matches on Nadal's beloved clay.
The tables turned since the 2019 ATP Finals, with the German beating the Spaniard for the first time and repeating that under the roof in Paris last November. On Friday, Alexander stepped in to beat Rafa on clay for the first time, ousting the 20-time Major winner 6-4, 6-4 in the Madrid Open quarter-final.
Thus, the 24-year-old became the tenth player with three consecutive ATP wins over Nadal, joining Hrbaty, Gaudio, Blake, Hewitt, Berdych, Djokovic, del Potro, Davydenko and Federer on the exclusive list! Also, Zverev is only the third player with three consecutive wins over Rafa on two different surfaces after Dominik Hrbaty and Novak Djokovic!
In the clash of former Madrid Open champions, Zverev overpowered Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 44 minutes, beating the Spaniard for the third time in a row and the first on the slowest surface. Rafa played well against Carlos Alcaraz and Alexei Popyrin in the early rounds but couldn't do much against the top-10 rival, playing passive tennis and struggling on both serve and return.
Alexander Zverev became the tenth player with three consecutive wins vs. Nadal.
The crowd favorite stayed under ten winners, unable to find the range or go for riskier shots that would have pushed Zverev away from the comfort zone.
On the other hand, the German hit 28 winners and 25 unforced errors. He had a massive advantage in the shortest and mid-range rallies, closing the exchanges mainly before the ninth stroke and taking the rhythm away from Nadal to advance into the tenth Masters 1000 semi-final.
Zverev seized three breaks and dropped serve only once in the early stages, never looking back behind the initial shot in the remaining games. They kicked off the encounter with five comfortable holds before Nadal scored a break at love at 3-2 following Zverev's double fault.
Alexander stayed calm and broke back in the next game after forcing Rafa's error at the net, gathering momentum and saving a break point in game eight to lock the result at 4-4. The German grabbed the second straight return game in game nine and closed the opener with an ace for 6-4 and a massive boost.
Nadal got broken at 2-2 in set number two following Zverev's forehand down the line winner and faced two more break chances that could have thrown him 5-2 down. The Spaniard saved them to bring the game home, showing the fighting spirit but staying powerless on the return, as Alexander held at 15 in game ten to seal the deal and celebrate the third straight victory over Rafa.