Writing with AFP

Updated 05/07/2021 at 6:03 p.m. –
Posted on 05/07/2021 at 5:32 p.m.

A few weeks before Roland-Garros, the former world number 1 leaves the Masters 1000 in Madrid.

Rafael Nadal was beaten by the German Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Masters 1000 in Madrid on Friday, less than a month before Roland-Garros (May 30-June 13), where he will aim a fourteenth historic coronation. Nadal had already lost in the quarter-finals of the Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo in mid-April at the start of the season on clay. He won his first trophy of the season the following week in Barcelona by dismissing a match point in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. For a place in the final, Zverev (N.6) will face world N.4 Dominic Thiem, victorious over American John Isner (39th) earlier today (3-6, 6-3, 6-4). This is the German’s first victory against Nadal on clay.

Nadal, however, was the first to break in this meeting, to lead 4 games to 2. But Zverev immediately returned to 4-3. Beyond, particularly offensive and incisive, not hesitating to go forward and even to come to conclude the points at the net, he gradually gained the upper hand on the Mallorcan to the point of registering four games in a row to pocket the first round in 48 minutes. Rare statistic: “Rafa” did not manage a winning forehand in this first set, and only two winning strokes, when the German hit twelve.

In the second set, the Spaniard somehow held up to 2-2. But the combination of unusual faults on his part and a pressing and precise Zverev cost him his serve again (3-2). The German even had two opportunities to widen the gap with a double break, to no avail. But in the end he didn’t need it and won in 1h44 min. On certain points, Zverev was also able to intelligently maneuver Nadal in the exchange by offering high balls to repel him. In total, the German, already a winner in Madrid in 2018, hit 28 winning shots for 25 unforced errors, compared to just six for seventeen at Nadal.