Barely a week had passed since Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev met on the track for the last time. It was at the Mutua Madrid Open, precisely in the quarterfinals, the same round that seven days later brought them together again at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
But this time it had a totally different sign. The Spaniard avenged his 6-3, 6-4 home loss in two hours. From the beginning it was clear that the script that was going to write this story would be different. The Spanish jumped with the lesson learned and with the fixation of amending his performance in the Caja Mágica, without granting the facilities that the German found then to achieve his first victory on clay against the Spanish (6-4, 6-4).
However, in just 20 minutes the second-seeded in Rome dominated 4-0, thanks to two consecutive breaks. Everything worked better than ever before in his previous duels in Rome against Jannik Sinner (R32) and Denis Shapovalov (R16), against whom he had to lift two match points against.
To the freshness of his legs, after 3 hours and 27 minutes of battle against the Canadian, he added precision in his powerful ground shots that overwhelmed the recent champion in Madrid in the first set. And that the German regained ground linking two consecutive games (4-2), but the reaction was a mirage.
Nadal stopped the recovery attempt to win the set 6-3. Nadal found a remedy for any problem that came his way. Even when the 23-year-old German was 2-1, 0/40 in his favor. He escaped danger and kept his options intact in the second set.
The manacorí secured his 75th appearance in an ATP Masters 1000 semifinal, a tie in which he holds a 51-23 record. And this Saturday he will try to get a ticket for the last round at the Foro Italico for the twelfth time in his career.
To achieve this, he will have to overcome the American gunner Reilly Opelka, a rival who makes his debut in the ATP Masters 1000 semifinals and has never been measured against.
Rafael Nadal took a nasty tumble mid-way through the second set
"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. He is a very difficult opponent to play," said the Spaniard. "He has a great service. I will need to be very focused with my serve and try to have some opportunities for the rest. We will see."