Rafael Nadal Avenges His Winless Streak Against Alexander Zverev to Reach Italian Open 2021 Semifinals

Published 05/14/2021, 8:17 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 13, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his third round match against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


Rafael Nadal overcame World No.6 Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open 2021. He avenged his straight-set loss against Zverev in Madrid last week and ended his losing streak against the German.

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In-form Rafael Nadal in the first set against Alexander Zverev at Italian Open 2021

Rafael Nadal in action during his quarter-final match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

At the start of the match, it was clear what Nadal was going for. Rafa extended the rallies and put the ball at the right spaces to toil with Zverev.

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Using his defense, Nadal neutralized Zverev’s fast strokes, as longer rallies went in Nadal’s favor. Rafa’s brutal gameplay allowed him to win 12 of the first 15 points and take a 3-0 lead.

Trying his best to win quick points, Zverev started making mistakes. He even tried coming to the net, but Nadal was still able to produce unreal passing shots to soon take a second break and lead 4-0.

Nadal hadn’t put a foot wrong in the match, but the in-form German wouldn’t concede easily. A few mistakes from Nadal and Zverev quickly found the break to make the score 4-1. Zverev had finally woken up, and his backhand was firing.

Chasing Nadal at 4-2, Zverev almost leveled the deficit. Serving for the set at 5-3, Nadal slipped near the net but was able to get back up. Zverev later had a breakpoint in that game, which he missed courtesy of a backhand unforced error. Nadal took the opening set 6-3.

Nadal marches ahead in Italian Open 2021

The second set started like the first set with Zverev down a breakpoint. But the German held his serve to stay in the match.

Zverev was neck and neck with Nadal as both players toiled hard in long rallies. Nadal was happy to defend and then pounce suddenly.

At 2-1, Zverev started attacking ferociously and earned three consecutive breakpoints.

But Nadal defended every time, and Zverev saw his advantage diluted. Nadal won five points in a row to save his serve and level the second set 2-2.

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After that, the subsequent service game from Zverev was under pressure. Zverev was firing shot after shot, but Nadal’s reading of the game was brilliant.

He didn’t let a winner by and broke Zverev. Even though the match was even, Zverev’s inability to convert his chances was coming to haunt him.

Alexander Zverev during his quarter final match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Despite trouncing Nadal on the backhand side, Zverev again failed to convert two break points as Nadal took a 4-2 lead in the second set. Nadal now easily controlled the match and at 5-4, he served for the match.

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But here, Zverev put in a last effort to salvage the match. He had three breakpoints, but Nadal’s use of drop shots deceived him and eventually, Rafa moved to his 12th semifinal in Rome, 6-3, 6-4.

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Bhavishya Mittal

1226 articles

Bhavishya Mittal is a tennis author for EssentiallySports, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Manipal University. A former sports editor for The Manipal Journal, Bhavishya has also worked for The New Indian Express. He has a keen eye for many sports but he is a particularly ardent follower of tennis, with a zest to create riveting articles on the ever-evolving sport.

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