PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal loses to Alexander Zverev in Madrid Open quarterfinals

Rafael Nadal’s bid for a sixth Madrid Open is over after he was beaten by Alexander Zverev in the quarter-final. He lost 6-4, 6-4 to the towering German in front of home crowd as he suffered his second clay-court loss of the season. Zverev also won the pair’s two most recent indoor hard-court meetings at the 2019 ATP Finals and last year’s Rolex Paris Masters in straight sets.

After the match, Rafa said:

“I had the match under control at the beginning, playing well for six games, probably playing better than him, than serving for 5-2, I did a disaster, and then another bad game with my serve with 30-love, and then of course facing one of the best players in the world, under these circumstances, with this speed of the court, it’s very difficult to still be confident. Yeah I tried but the serve was difficult to control today, and well done for him.” (via Tennis Majors)

Our champ’s defeat on the Madrid clay comes just three weeks before he bids for a 14th French Open title in Paris.


  1. WTA world No. 1 Ashley Barty was served a bagel in the first set by Sabalenka in their Madrid final. Barty came back to win the second set 6-3. They are now in the decider with Barty ahead 3-2.

  2. ….However, the ease with which Zverev was holding serve compared to Rafa made me worry…..

  3. I’ve read all the different comments and analyses about Rafa’s loss. Yes, Rafa was doing a good job at keeping Zverev at bay until the seventh game in the first set. However, the ease with which Zverev was holding serve compared to Rafa. He looked so relaxed on each point and he was the better tactician by far.

    It’s true what Rafa says, when he’s down in the score he often finds a way back to win (on clay at least), but it was a different story in this match because he was unable to boss the rallies, especially the longer ones, and this must have been definitely frustrating.

    Looking at Zverev’s play : strong serving, good movement, solid backhand as usual, much improved forehand which Rafa couldn’t breakdown and courage to come forward.

    Zverev gave Rafa so much to think about as well as coping with the conditions at altitude, to which Zverev was much better suited.

    All in all, a lot of credit has to be given to Zverev who knows how to win in Madrid and has just gone on to win emphatically against Dominic Thiem in a similar fashion.

    Let’s hope that Rafa can get his mojo back in Rome.

  4. Does anyone find the following confusing?

    Rafa: “I think for most of the first set, I was playing better than him. And this is the negative part; while playing better than him in the first set, I still lost 6-4.

    “This is very difficult to understand, especially for me. When this happens to me, it’s usually in the opposite way – I find a way to win sets even though I’m not playing my best or as good as the opponent.”

    • Margo, I don’t find it confusing in context. Rafa was playing better the first set until he lost his serve in the 7th game. Rafa wins most of the time. Its just a fact. So he often wins even though he isn’t playing well or not as well as his opponent. That’s his reality and explains his “confusion” when he loses.

      I disagree with Marijnt’s analysis on two points. First, Rafa is not in denial. He and Moya know he is not playing up to his usual standards. Rafa acknowledged in his comments that his serve is not under control.

      I also disagree on where he stands to receive serve. Its rare that he moves up. He did so against Nole to win his 13th French Open. Sascha has an incredible serve, probably the most difficult of all of Rafa’s rivals.

      I agree with the Tennis Channel commentators that Rafa should have been looking to move up once the rallies got under way. He was giving too much respect to Sascha to have a chance to win.

      Rafa still has time to get his game going for Roland-Garris. In any case this year will be the most wide open French Open in many years.

      • David, regarding Rafa’s statement I went through that mentally before posting.

        He said he “didn’t understand” when he lost to Rublev at MC saying his practices went fine. Now he “doesn’t understand” how/why he lost to Zverev.

        I hope this doesn’t develop into a pattern.

        Wishing him another win in Rome which would lift his confidence and chances for a 14th FO trophy.

  5. Rafa is enjoying a beautiful day of relaxation on his catamaran before flying to Rome tomorrow.

    He might face Sinner on Wednesday and Zverev in the QF.

    BEST for the tournament Rafa.

  6. the dutch commentator who was commenting the match didnt understand why rafa was keep hitting to the backhand of zverev knowing that that was zverev best shot and why rafa was not using the forehand down the line more often i couldnt agree more rafa was constantly hitting to the backhand of zverev like he is doing against djokovic i dont know what the reason is behind that strategy somebody should explain that to me

  7. His lack of killer instinct is also something that is bothering me. He is giving his opponents hope and he shouldnt be doing that.


  8. very dissapointing loss for rafa. I am reading comments about rafa like: dont worry rafa everything is going to be okay rafa, i love to see you smile again rafa you are such a caring person rafa.

    Rafa doesnt need a babysitter this guy is a atlete who is making millions of money thanks to his fans so we should give him credit when he deserve it and critize him when he needs it

    This loss is a devastating loss. This rafa reminds me of the rafa of 2015 i am very worried about his level of play and i think that rafa is in denial about his level at the moment.

    His lack of play is hurting him a lot. He only hit six winners in this match. So far he has a terrible preperation for the french open losing against rublev in monte carlo he won barcelona but faced match point against stefanos and now this loss against zverev.

    Rafa is serving unbelievable bad is constantly struggling in his service games needs a lot of second serves and also hitting double faults in important moments and doesnt get free points. I dont understand why he is in denial about it and why Carlos Moya is not telling him that. Is Moya affraid of telling rafa that because he wants to be his friend instead of his coach and wants to be less confrontational.

    You also saw it in his match he was constantly under pressure in his service games but not only that in 2015 rafa was struggling with nerves and choked a lot I am seeing it this time again he is unable to maintain control over a match look how he lost against stefanos in australia after leading 2-0 in sets and how he lost against rublev in monte carlo after winning the second set and how he almost lost against stefanos in barcelona after having two matchpoints.

    In this match you also how terrible a returner rafa is his returns were so easy for zverev they were half court not against the baseline like djokovic does very easy for zverev to finish the point. He was standing 3 meters behind the baseline how can a player hit a good return from 3 meters behind the baseline is just baffling for me.

    Nadal needs to raise his level if he wants to win roland garros again the younger guys are coming for him.
    For the first time since 2015 i consider rafa vulnerable in Paris Nadal needs to serve better return better and be a killer again on the court not choking and waisting leads

    Zverev has now won 3 times in a row against rafa and rafa didnt not win a set zverev is now in rafa head i hope they will face each other again in Rome rafa has to beat him in Rome to deny zverev any hope he can threaten him in Paris.

    • I am sorry but I must disagree with some of the comments made here. I think we need to put Rafa’s recent performances into perspective.
      Rafa has stood three metres behind the baseline on clay throughout his magnificent career. It would be impossible to return Zverev’s serve from the baseline. It is just way too big for that. (Zverev also stands way back to return.) Zverev’s three wins in a row against Rafa have come on indoor courts (2) and Madrid (where the high altitude favours big hitters). Rafa does not and has never excelled on indoor courts (he has never won the Paris Masters or the ATP Finals) and he has ‘only’ won Madrid five times.
      I do agree that he is not as ‘match tight’ as he would like to be or as his younger rivals are but that is because, unlike them, he has hardly played in the last fifteen months, due to injuries and covid. So, when he comes under pressure against these rising stars (who have nothing to lose and can play freely, without pressure) he is not quite as confident as he would normally be (and when he is a little low on confidence his serve can suffer). This is totally understandable.
      He is also 34, going on 35. Tsitsipas was 7 when Rafa won his first French Open and Zverev was 9. Everyone wants to beat the King of Clay but I firmly believe that none of these rivals would beat Rafa if they were the same age!
      We just cannot expect Rafa to continue to beat everyone on clay, as he used to do routinely, at this stage in his illustrious career. His string of successes in tennis far exceed what any fan could have expected of him way back in 2005; so he does not owe his fans and supporters anything. Let’s give Rafa a break!

      • I dont think so. He owns everything to his fans.

        Age is not a argument i am so sick and tired of hearing that everytime.

      • If you can return zverev return from the baseline why is djokovic able of doing that

      • so you just have accept losses like that are you kidding me either you are a winner or not

    • I think that is not such a bad thing that he lost. Just think that Rafa is almost 35 years and Madrid was never his best tournament.
      Sasha was much fresher (he didn’t compete in Barcelona). Probably in Rome we’ll be able to figure out, what Rafa’s level of play is. And the playing conditions in Rome are similar to those in RG.

      • I agree Dinu. Rome will provide a better indication of Rafa’s prospects for the French Open than Madrid.

        However, I must disagree with your observations Marijnt.
        1. Age is indeed a factor. If it weren’t, Federer would still be winning Slams and Masters. He has always been extremely talented and has not lost that talent; yet he is not winning and is hardly playing. (I suspect he will retire this year, possibly after the US Open.) We are extremely fortunate that Rafa is still playing at such a high level at the age of 34 (35 next month), especially when one factors in the injuries he has had to cope with over the years. Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Edberg, Becker, Sampras and Agassi (I could go on) all retired from the Tour when they realised that they could no longer win the big tournaments. It is just a fact of life that winning gets harder as one gets older. Anyone who plays any sport knows that.
        2. Thiem tried standing on the baseline to return Zverev’s serve today and he still lost to him in straight sets. Thiem is easily the better clay court player but could not deal with Zverev’s power. The high altitude in Madrid undoubtedly favours big servers and hitters like Zverev.
        3. Rafa is the King of Clay because he is an extremely talented, disciplined, dedicated and tenacious competitor. He has always respected his many fans but he does not ‘owe’ them anything. We are lucky to have him.
        4. I am sure Rafa is very disappointed that he lost to Zverev but at this stage in his career he is going to have off-days. Rafa will retire when he no longer believes he can win Masters or Slams, especially on his best and favourite surface. Let’s hope that he can win a few more but, if he doesn’t, it will not be because he didn’t try his best, (which he has always done) and it will not be because he doesn’t know what to do on court! (Knowing what to do and being able to do it on the day are two quite different things.) Tennis is a mentally, physically and emotionally demanding and draining sport which eventually takes its toll with the passage of time, no matter how great the player.
        5. Let’s get real here. Rafa knows a thing or two about playing tennis, especially on clay! He doesn’t need our advice (or criticism). Just as he respects us, so too should we respect him. He has earned that many times over.
        6. Let’s just enjoy watching Rafa hit those fantastic, breathtaking forehands down the line for as long as he is willing and able to do it. We shall miss him dearly when he retires.

  9. I think the loss was for a good reason do not worry about it RAFA it will give you more time to improve your serve I am just happy that your are still competing and thrilling so many of your fans THE BEST OF LUCK FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR

    • Rafa no matter what you are still my Tennis Player. Not happy when you lose. You win some and you will lose some. Not to worry. With the Lord in the vessel you will bounce back.

    • To Ginagigi:

      Roger has confirmed his participation at Halle for 2022. Knowing the right time to retire must be a very difficult decision for elite players. One of the saddest spectacles in sports is witnessing a once great champion who is only a shadow of their former self. Father Time always wins in the end. Wishing for Roger and Rafa to hang up their racquets a bit too soon rather than a bit too late.

  10. This loss was difficult to absorb . Yes , Sasha played better and outplayed Rafa by by a large margin . Nonetheless, I believe.Rada will rebound from this loss and I still believe he will win Roland Garros as its more of a confidence issue than any physical one . Nadal will get it together. Vamos !

  11. I love you, Rafael., as a very caring person. Win or lose as you get older….you still are wonderful.

  12. Alexander Zverevis now Rafa’s new Djokovic. So sad.
    The clouds are gathering and there is no silver lining -a bad omen for Roland Harris.
    Rafa:s winning ways may have started to ebb.

  13. Rafa it was a bad day but you are a human being it is ok bad day we all have that we are not a machine is ok prepared for the next tournament we love you I’m a tennis player too we have good days and bad days💪💪💪👍👍👍😘❤️🇺🇸

  14. He started well, and I know Madrid’s not his best event, but it was quite worrying – serve just not working. Hoping for better things in Rome!

    • All Rafa Fans will be disappointed with his loss to Zverev today, because we naturally want him to win every match he plays, especially on clay. It could be that this is the year that, at the age of 34, soon to turn 35, his younger, talented rivals begin to make their move. We cannot expect our great Champion (and the undoubted King of Clay) to hold them off forever. That would be unrealistic.
      That said, historically, Rafa has sometimes struggled to beat the ‘big hitters’, especially on grass and indoors but also, occasionally, on clay. Zverev is 6’6” with a huge first serve and powerful ground strokes. So it is not too surprising that he should beat Rafa in Madrid, where the high altitude favours the big hitters. (Zverev won Madrid in 2018.) It is also not surprising that Zverev should beat Rafa in Paris and in London, both indoor tournaments. Rafa has never won either of these tournaments and has ‘only’ won Madrid five times. (Of course five wins is a fantastic achievement by any standards but it does not compare with Rafa’s achievements elsewhere on clay, as we all know.)
      How Rafa fares in Rome will provide a better indication of where his game is at, vis a vie his rivals on clay. I think Djokovic, Thiem and Tsitsipas will be the ones to watch out for in Rome, assuming they are all fit and injury free. Let’s hope that Rafa gets a favourable draw in Rome and is able to serve well there from the outset. (His serve, though it is a much improved stroke and is now extremely good most of the time, can suffer a little when he is not fully confident. Totally understandable. He is not a machine after all.) We must also bear in mind that Rafa’s rivals have played many more matches than he has in the past year. So, unlike Rafa, they are ‘match tight’. Rafa is not at his very best yet but, if he is able to win in Rome that will give him the confidence he needs to win again in Paris. It would indeed be wonderful, for him of course but for all of us too, if he could dominate on clay for a little while longer. Best wishes to Rafa.

  15. The photo of Rafa with his face in his hands tells the story. An error-strewn performance. Rafa didn’t have the luxury a free points on serve as a cushion. Although his serving stats were ok, they needed to be better to fend off the power of Zverev, who was confident and untroubled by Rafa’s predictable game.

    With Rafa going out, COME ON CASPER !!!

  16. One can not win always. One can win when confident and ready. Knowing about your opponents ability to beat you, I am guessing, is the negative which you store and that creeps in. You had such confidence in your new second serve, keep thinking that. One tourney behind you, your choice as to how to prepare for what is most important to you. Each match is a training ground. Keep your eye on the goal!!!

    Relax and be the young in heart Rafa, full of “I can” and I will . Vamos,man!!

  17. Rafa had one of those days, started well but his serve not firing and Sascha played really well. Rafa will come back strongly. Madrid conditions not the best for him. All support Rafa, win or lose, you are still our champion

  18. Rafa’s serving stats weren’t that bad, but he made too many errors and couldn’t find a way to hit winners past Zverev. I’m not surprised at the result really, Rafa’s results at this tournament are nowhere near as good as the other clay events that he plays regularly and Zverev is a good player who has won this one before.

    Rafa will be back down to #3 in the rankings on Monday, but I think as the draw for Rome is tomorrow he will be the second seed there.

  19. Rafa soy fans d ti y te siguo siempre, y estoy contigo siempre, , a mi humilde opinión mejora tu servicio, suerte para Roland Garros que será claro después d Roma, SIEMPRE CONTIGO!!!!!

  20. Didn’t see him play except for the first 4-5 games. Thought he was doing fine – also in the previous matches. Very disappointed!!! If his serve doesn’t improve and become consistent then ……… .

    Hope he still remains confident, look at his errors and then put the match behind him. Important to maintain confident attitude.

    VAMOS Rafa!!!! All the very best!!

  21. Next stop is Rome. Next week.Rafa’s lack of confidence just may sink him. I am not ready for that. Whatever has been going on with Rafa hasn’t been fixed. My hopes for him is to lift himself up.


  22. Rafa really needs to ensure that he’s able to serve well. Imperative to take care of his serve whilst playing against other top players. When he’s struggling wid his serve – he just can’t exert pressure on the opponent & appears passive which in turn allows other players to secure a precious win.
    Madrid’s not the place where he’s played as good as he’s at other places (RG, Rome, MC) but he’s lost opportunities to increase his Master’s 1000 tally

  23. Raphael, I Amstel concinced you can win the Frech Open. Please work on your serve and gain the confidence you require! Thank you @Paul Annacone for fair TV analysis of Rafa this week!

  24. Third defeat in a row against Zverev without winning a set. Rafa did not play on Hardcourt after the AO to recover and to prepare for the clay-court-season. For that he is in bad shape.

    Rafa has a lot of work to do if he wants to win Roland Garros again. Very disappointed today. All the best for Rome. Vamos Rafa❤️

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