Rafael Nadal ends losing streak against Alexander Zverev with win in Rome

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Rafael Nadal ended a run of three straight losses to Alexander Zverev with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over the German on Friday to achieve the Italian Open semifinals.

Zverev had crushed Nadal in straight units on the identical stage in Madrid per week in the past however their newest assembly went the Spaniard’s method from the beginning.

Aiming for a record-extending tenth Rome title, Nadal raced to a 4-0 lead in the primary set and saved all eight break factors he confronted in the second.

“I played more solid than Madrid. Conditions are different,” Nadal stated, alluding to the truth that the high-altitude of the Spanish capital allowed Zverev to dominate extra with his serve. “Here are little bit more normal conditions. I was able to control a little bit more.”

It was a stark distinction from Nadal’s lengthy three-set comeback win over Denis Shapovalov a day earlier, when the Spaniard saved two match factors.

Nadal’s semifinal opponent shall be big-serving American Reilly Opelka, who reached his first Masters semifinal with a 7-5, 7-6 (2) win over Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis.

In the ladies’s match, 2019 Rome champion Karolina Pliskova rallied previous 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (1) to arrange a semifinal against Petra Martic. Martic eradicated Jessica Pegula 7-5, 6-4 for her largest outcome since just lately hiring former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone as her coach.

The solely actual second of concern for Nadal got here when he tripped over the service line whereas operating down a drop shot when he was serving for the primary set.

The crowd of about 2,500 set free a collective gasp as Nadal tumbled onto the clay and rolled over onto his again wincing in obvious ache.

After placing Nadal’s reply away for a simple winner — the Spaniard nonetheless managed to get the ball over the online — Zverev hopped over the online to test on the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

Nadal received up, although, dusted himself off and served out the set with his again and even headband nonetheless lined in clay.

“Some lines are higher than the rest of court, so when you touch the line it’s dangerous,” Nadal stated.

Zverev, the 2017 Rome champion and winner of the trophy in Madrid final weekend, had quite a few alternatives to recuperate from an early break in the second set however Nadal stepped up his recreation every time and closed it out on his first match level with a wonderfully executed serve-and-volley.

“I played a very solid match, with not too many mistakes — playing the way that I have to,” Nadal stated. “It’s an important victory for me against a great player.”

The 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Opelka, not beforehand recognized for his clay-court tennis, overwhelmed Delbonis with 18 aces to report his fourth straight-set win of the week.

“I’m surprised. Clay is not really my thing — not much of an American thing,” Opelka stated. “It’s probably just a fluke. But I’m OK with it.”

Opelka additionally saved all 4 break factors he confronted. But it wasn’t simply his serve that made the distinction.

The Forty seventh-ranked Opelka hit a fragile slice volley drop-shot winner in the ultimate recreation earlier than the tiebreaker after which produced a troublesome backhand cross-court passing shot to arrange the one match level he wanted.

Opelka entered Rome on a six-match losing streak that included dealing with a bout of COVID-19.

“I wish I could use that as an excuse but the first 10 weeks of the year I just didn’t play well. It wasn’t COVID-related at all,” Opelka stated. “Obviously after you lose eight weeks in a row, the one thing you want to do is practice — not get COVID and be stuck inside for 2½ weeks. But I guess it worked out.”

Nadal known as it a “big challenge” dealing with Opelka, as a result of the American “has almost an unreturnable serve.”

“I need to be ready to accept (surrendering winners),” Nadal stated, “and be patient on the return.”

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