PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal beats Alexander Zverev to reach Rome Masters semis

(AP) – Rafael Nadal ended a run of three straight losses to Alexander Zverev with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over the German player Friday to reach the Italian Open semifinals.

Zverev had beaten Nadal in straight sets at the same stage in Madrid a week ago, but their latest meeting went the Spanish star’s way from the start.

Aiming for a record-extending 10th Rome title, Nadal raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set and saved all eight break points he faced in the second.

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

It was a stark contrast from Nadal’s long three-set comeback win over Denis Shapovalov a day earlier, when the clay-court master saved two match points.

Nadal’s semifinal opponent will 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.

For Nadal, the only real moment of concern came when he tripped over the service line while running down a drop shot when he was serving for the first set.

The crowd of about 2,500 let out a collective gasp as Nadal tumbled onto the clay and rolled over onto his back wincing in apparent pain.

After putting Nadal’s reply away for an easy winner — he had still managed to get the ball over the net — Zverev hopped over the net to check on the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

Nadal got up, though, dusted himself off and served out the set with his back and even headband still covered in clay.

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

Zverev, the 2017 Rome champion and winner of the trophy in Madrid last weekend, had numerous opportunities to recover from an early break in the second set, but Nadal stepped up his game each time and closed it out on his first match point with a perfectly executed serve-and-volley.

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


  1. The rain hasn’t been Novak’s friend this week plus he’s got it all to do tomorrow from a set and a break down. Let’s see if he can copy Rafa’s comeback or if Stefanos can fend him off.
    In any event, whoever wins will have to do double duty! The weeather forecast is good for tomorrow, so all scheduled matches should be completed.

      • David, google Nadal and you should arrive at Rafa’s schedule in your time. He is scheduled tentatively for 1:15pm local time, 7:15am EST.

      • David, after my response to you I noted that RNF did send out the schedule. It’s the post after this one.

    • Lorna… I believe right now they’re in the locker room trying to wait it out… officials want them to finish their match today ( it’s already 9:30 pm there) to allow for the semi’s to begin as scheduled tomorrow.. These guys will be hanging out for awhile as it could go very late into the night.

  2. I didn’t realize Rafa tripped on the line when he fell. When he didn’t move at first I thought his tournament was over.

    Afterwards Rafa said that his next opponent’s serve is unhittable. Great. Opelka is 6 foot eleven inches tall. Can’t wait to see the match!

    Opelka is 23. Next Geners everywhere. Where did Sonego (correct spelling?) come from? He’s 26 and has already defeated Djokovic and Theim.

    Go Rafa! Introduce him to championship tennis!

    • He’s probably 7 foot tall with his tennis shoes on…With his wing span & Ace driven serve Rafa maybe in trouble! Has he ever played Opelka before? If not that could be a factor as well. All these next-gens are so tall! I think only Shapo & Thiem are 6’1” like Rafa! Fortunately I missed the fall but when I saw the replay it was scary! Rafa looked like he was wincing in pain but it was very short-lived! That’s dangerous to have your foot get caught on the line…can’t they paint it on or do something else safer? Anyway Rafa should be fine…seems as though he is getting his game on! Best of luck Rafa! 💜💜

      • Ziggy, this will be their first meeting. Opelka was quoted as saying “…clay is not my thing. Not an American thing but I will see how it goes.” He doesn’t seem to be excited to be playing on clay but let’s “see how it goes.” LOL

        I think Rafa will be okay on this one.

  3. Today the fall will bring hurts . I hope the hands heal easily. Maybe having to stretch for the high serves tomorrow will feel good. You will figure out what and how. So glad you could finish the match today; good for your head! It is marvelous how your head space rules your body!! Be the master of your nerves and the best is yours.

    A BIG VAMOS for tomorrow, man.

  4. Enhorabuena, Rafael Nadal. Strong mentality from the start. Show of sportsmanship and respect from Z. Keep it rolling💪👏👍🤛🔥🎾🍀❤️

  5. Rafa was fired up for that match today..lot more energy despite the 3hr match yesterday. Revenge is sweet. The fall frightened all of us but thankfully he is good. Roll on tomorrow Buena Suerte Rafa

  6. Rafa played so we’ll at the start of the match that I believe it propelled him to beat Sasha in 2 sets . I was definitely worried with all the service breaks that Sasha had in the 2nd set but Rafa managed to hold his serve with clutch shot making and playing smart . All in all , it’s a great victory . Next opponent Opelka presents a unique challenge with the biggest serve inn the game finding it’s target more often than not . This match may end in 3 sets with Rafa prevailing by making Reilly run the court more often than he wants . We shall see .

  7. important victory for rafa losing against zverev means zverev is going to be in his head. Now opelka difficult opponent.

    Nadal first serve needs to be above 70% and he has to return very big if you wants to be in the final

  8. I was a bit stressed when he slipped, but thankfully he seems to be OK. Great win, and a good job that he had an early match and was off court before the heavens opened.

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