Nadal takes revenge on Madrid killer Zverev to advance to Rome semi-finals




Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Germany’s Alexander Zverev during their tennis match at the Men’s Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 14, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (AFP)

ROME, Italy – Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal sent his Madrid Masters killer Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Italian Open on Friday.

Second-seeded Nadal lost to Zverev in Madrid’s last eight games last week but ended his three-game losing streak against the German in Foro Italico.

“It was an important victory for me against a great player,” said the Spaniard.

The 34-year-old rocked his 3.30am quarter-final marathon against Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, where he had to save two match points.

Nadal propelled to 4-0 before sixth seed Zverev held the serve with the 20-time Grand Slam winner, saving the break point to take the first set.

The German rallied in the second set but Nadal saved eight break points to seal the victory on his first match point after two hours.

Nadal will then face American Reilly Opelka for a place in the final for an 11th time as he warms up for the French Open from May 30.

Opelka, 47th, reached his first Masters semi-final with a 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) victory over Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis.

“It’s a big challenge against a player who is playing well and has almost an impossible serve,” Nadal said of Opelka who has not lost a set on the week.

“I served well especially in the big moments, that was the key, I stayed calm,” said Opelka, who has hit nearly 80 aces this week.

“I recently made a few adjustments to my serve and it has paid off.”

Nadal is two wins away from equaling Novak Djokovic’s record 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles.

He is also trying to win 10 or more titles in a single event for the fourth time, after Roland Garros (13), Barcelona (12) and Monte Carlo (11).

Zverev, 24, had been on a seven-game winning streak, following his second title race in Madrid last week.

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