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Madrid Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev preview, head-to-head & prediction

Alexander Zverev (L) and Rafael Nadal
Alexander Zverev (L) and Rafael Nadal
Namit Kumar
ANALYST

Match details

Fixture: (1) Rafael Nadal vs (5) Alexander Zverev

Date: 7 May 2021

Tournament: 2021 Mutua Madrid Open

Round: Quarterfinals

Venue: Madrid, Spain

Category: ATP Masters 1000

Surface: Red clay

Prize money: €2,614,465

Match timing: Not before 3 pm local time, 6.30 pm IST

Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video

Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev preview

Top seed Rafael Nadal is on the hunt for his sixth Madrid Masters title this week. The Spaniard has gone from strength to strength since making his return to the European clay swing following a nearly two-month break.

Nadal looked shaky to start with in Monte Carlo, where he lost in the quarterfinals to Andrey Rublev. But the 34-year-old bounced back to lift his 12th career title at Barcelona, defeating Kei Nishikori, Pablo Carreno Busta and Stefanos Tsitsipas along the way.

Nadal has been at his ruthless best in Madrid so far, powering past Carlos Alcaraz and Alexei Popyrin in straight sets to set up a quarterfinal against fifth seed Alexander Zverev.

Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev

Zverev on his part has had a lot of distractions off the court since the tour resumed amid the pandemic, and his inconsistency on the court has done him no favors. The German bowed out in the first round at Rotterdam, followed that up by winning the title in Acapulco, but then again lost his opening match at Miami.

Zverev started his clay season in Monte Carlo, where he lost in the third round to David Goffin. The World No. 6 then suffered a surprise quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Ilya Ivashka in Munich.

Zverev has, however, looked solid in his back-to-back straight-sets wins over Kei Nishikori and Dan Evans at Madrid so far.

Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev head-to-head

The quarterfinal encounter in Madrid is the eighth match between the two players, and Rafael Nadal currently leads the head-to-head 5-2 over Alexander Zverev.

Zverev has failed to defeat Nadal in any of their three meetings on clay. However, he did beat the Spaniard in each of their last two encounters - at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals and the 2020 Paris Masters.

Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev prediction

Rafael Nadal comes into every single claycourt match as the overwhelming favorite, and the quarterfinal match in Madrid is no different. The Spaniard is yet to drop a set this week and has looked totally at ease in his first two rounds.

The serve had been a problem area for Nadal after his return to clay, but he is averaging a first-serve rate of over 60% in Madrid so far. Perhaps even more importantly, the altitude and weather conditions that usually bother him in the Spanish capital are yet to have an impact on his performances this week.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Zverev's serve is undoubtedly one of his biggest strengths, and his ability to hit through his opponents makes him a threat in the quick conditions at Madrid. The German's backhand has also evolved from being a rally shot to a significant weapon, and it could play a crucial role in robbing his opponent of time on Friday.

Nadal is, however, the superior player on clay, unlike on indoor hardcourts where Zverev got both of his wins over the Spaniard. If Nadal maintains the laser-like focus he has shown this week, he should be able to pull through to the semifinals.

Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in two tight sets.

Edited by Prem Deshpande
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