Translated into a roller coaster, the clay tour offers an unwanted descent into the Caja Mágica in Madrid, where a two-meter gunner, Alexander Zverev, dispatches Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the tournament: double 6-4, in 1h 44m. Cold, abrupt departure from the Spaniard, who after the acceleration of two weeks ago at the Godó and the optimistic staging of the previous rounds, left with a blur. The braking is a fact. Fallon and blurred, the champion of 20 majors has been choking lately Madrid, where he has not won since 2017, and also the giant Zverev, who has beaten him in the last three clashes between the two. The stumble hurts, because it also means descending to the third rung of the
, in favor of Daniil Medvedev, and leads the German to a cross with Dominic Thiem (3-6, 6-3 and 6-3 to John Isner) for a ticket to the final.
Nadal repairs the service gap
Nadal's spring walk to Popyrin
Nadal meets a challenging Zverev, eager to march and who knows the ins and outs of the track well. At the end of the day, the German won the Madrid title in 2018 and the height of Madrid is perfect for his flat and deep hitting, very dangerous if he wakes up in good spirits and does not give him to return to his old ways, talent comes and goes he. Called to lead the new batch a few years ago, he lacks regularity and is a Guadian tennis player, more of a protagonist in recent times due to his adventures away from the courts than because of his sporting merits, but if he finds inspiration with the service he is capable of get off anyone, call it Nadal, Federer or Djokovic. All three notches are on your revolver. Three times he has beaten the first in the last three confrontations, two of them hard: the 2019 Masters and Bercy in 2020.
The Spanish has the upper hand during the first leg of the duel and confirms his superiority with a
in the sixth game. However, Zverev replies, throwing a couple of
, and he grows up just before a decisive mood twist arrives. From face to face until that moment, the German does not understand Nadal's request to check the ball in a serve, after the Balearic has sent the rest long. The referee accepts, confirms the double fault and the service is repeated. The Spanish gets the point. 30-30. Then, Zverev turns on, protests. Curse. Fail then
. If on other occasions such an action had clouded him, this time he uncovers his best version. It spurs him on. Abort the possible break, defend the service and show his fist.
In the plant a volcano is activated. The one from Hamburg, a 1.98 tower, steps forward and his backhand cuts like a scythe. His lever hammers and Nadal becomes more and more erratic. In progression from Barcelona, the Mallorcan had made amends in the first two appointments at the Caja Mágica his problems with serving, but against the German there is a setback. He does not tune when serving, and his backhand and forehand squeak. The ball goes too many times to the corridor, and the
does not carry a pinch of gunpowder. The regression is summarized 17 unforced errors, 10 of them with the right; only 6 winners. Nadal is out of tune and pays dearly for the decentre, with a skid in the ninth game that allows the rival to serve to close the set. Zverev does not wrinkle and seals with an
Missiles fall, some at 229 kilometers per hour.
Alarm light and whispering in the stands.
There is one world left, but neither one nor the other change the dynamics.
Zverev, increasingly damaging, growing and harassing;
Nadal, increasingly defenseless, there are no aces up his sleeve.
Gray on this clay tour - eighths in Monte Carlo and fourths in Munich, previously - the young
he maintains the type and in the fifth game of the second round he strikes another blow, which ends up being definitive. Later, the Madrid public trusts the shiver, especially when the six of the world misses a 15-40, with 4-2 in their favor. That may be there, he thinks. But not. Not this time. There is no epic, there is no turnaround. Madrid and its peculiar codes. The German –82% of points with the first ones– remakes himself and signs his first victory on sand against Nadal. Sentences him in the tournament, elusive for him for four years. Jug of cold water and a step back on the route to Roland Garros, with the Rome Masters, next week, as an intermediate stopover. There is no time to think, yes to correct. Nadal takes note and, resigned, chews a defeat that stings.
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