The Rolex Paris Masters 2020 is set to host a blockbuster semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev on Saturday. A match between the world number two and world number seven is always expected to be exciting. However, Saturday’s match is between two players on a 10 and 11-match winning streak.
Nadal’s 10-match streak stretches back to the start of the French Open 2020, and Paris has again been kind to him. Meanwhile, Zverev’s streak includes two titles as well, both at home in Germany.
The last time Nadal played an indoor hard-court ATP event was almost a year ago. He lost one of his three matches at the ATP Finals last year, and the manner of defeat eventually cost him a place in the knockout rounds. That loss was to Zverev, 6-2, 6-4.
Nadal comes into the Paris-Bercy semi-final after a couple of tough battles so far this week. Two of his three opponents forced him to make a comeback from a set down, and the key for Nadal was that he was able to raise his level as the matches progressed.
Big-serving Spanish compatriot Feliciano Lopez made Nadal work hard to earn his 1000th career win. Nadal took that confidence and the positivity around the achievement to down Jordan Thompson 6-1, 7-6(3) in the second round.
Another Spaniard, Pablo Carreno Busta, proved to be his toughest yet, but Nadal found his range when it mattered most to prevail 4-6, 7-6, 6-1. Nadal has been quite strong on serve all week and it has been his biggest weapon. While the forehand is yet to match the standard Nadal has set for it over the years, it has still been lethal.
Nadal has faced some difficulty on the return of serve, something he highlighted after his quarter-final.
Zverev, meanwhile, had two rather comfortable wins separated by a thriller. His Round of 16 tie against Adrian Mannarino stretched him to the limit, but he edged the Frenchman 7-6(11), 6-7(7), 6-4. Zverev showed his range in the quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka and even battled a bit of a niggle.
Zverev’s serve and backhand are firing well this week. A key factor in his game has been his defensive skills. The addition of David Ferrer to his camp has helped in that department.
Nadal leads their head-to-head record 5-1. However, Zverev defeated him in their last match, which was on the indoor hard-courts of London. Their 2017 Australian Open five-set thriller is another memorable battle.
The key for Zverev again will be that big booming serve. The likes of Lopez and Carreno Busta did trouble Nadal with their serves.
Zverev has the added advantage of his height. It will be important for him to push Nadal behind early on in the rally and keep the points as short as he can.
It is no secret that the longer the rallies and the deeper the match goes, Nadal just tends to grow in confidence. Zverev will need to replicate his power-packed game from London last year.
However, Zverev faces a challenge like none other in Nadal. He even termed Nadal as the best defensive player on the circuit ahead of the match. Nadal’s serve will need to strike as well and will look to push Zverev in difficult positions with the forehand approach shot.
The conditions do favor Zverev more. However, Nadal has a tendency to tick all the boxes at the same time during the business end of a tournament. He will certainly learn from their previous encounter and look to right the wrong this time.
PREDICTION: Rafael Nadal to win in three sets.