Rafael Nadal took revenge on Alexander Zverev by taking the pass for the semifinals of the BNL Internationals of Italy. The Spanish star, who had been knocked out by the German last week in Madrid, delivered a very clever performance by stifling any comeback attempt by his opponent.
Solid on the serve and incisive from the baseline, the former world number 1 has produced one of his best performances this season. The 20-time Grand Slam champion had disappointed expectations in the first rounds on clay, having suffered a couple of quite worrying defeats in Monte Carlo and Madrid.
In between, the 34-year-old from Manacor had redeemed himself by winning the title in Barcelona, where he was forced to cancel a match point to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final act. It is no mystery that the Iberian is aiming to conquer the 14th Roland Garros of his career, the one that would allow him to overtake his eternal rival Roger Federer in the all-time ranking for the first time.
At the press conference, Rafa expressed all his joy for access to the semi-final.
Rafael Nadal brought out some of his best tennis
"I'm one of those who think that when you fight, you usually end up getting something in return," Rafael Nadal said.
"That's what I did. Yesterday I fought a lot, I suffered a lot, but I could find a way to win the match. That gave me the opportunity to be on the court today. I played much better today than yesterday. I did a lot of things well, I played more solidly and I think it was one of the most solid matches I have played on clay this year."
During his presser, the 20-time Major champion assured everyone that his fall hadn't caused any serious physical issues whatsoever, even though it did hurt initially. "Several parts of my body hurt, because I have injuries in different places," Nadal said.
"It was in a race, my foot got stuck on the line. I hit my wrist, I got scared a little, but after a few seconds I realized it was nothing." The second set started like the first set with Zverev down a breakpoint.
But the German held his serve to stay in the match. Zverev was neck and neck with Nadal as both players toiled hard in long rallies. Nadal was happy to defend and then pounce suddenly. At 2-1, Zverev started attacking ferociously and earned three consecutive breakpoints.
But Nadal defended every time, and Zverev saw his advantage diluted. Nadal won five points in a row to save his serve and level the second set 2-2. After that, the subsequent service game from Zverev was under pressure. Zverev was firing shot after shot, but Nadal’s reading of the game was brilliant.
Zverev put in a last effort to salvage the match. He had three breakpoints, but Nadal’s use of drop shots deceived him and eventually, Rafa moved to his 12th semifinal in Rome, 6-3, 6-4.