Alexander Zverev defeated Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Madrid Open on Friday, thus registering his first victory over the Spaniard on clay. That means Zverev has joined a very select group - of just three players - to have defeated Nadal on clay, Roger Federer on grass and Novak Djokovic on hardcourt.
The first player to achieve this feat was Andy Murray, when he defeated Rafael Nadal on clay in the 2015 Madrid Open final. Murray had already beaten Novak Djokovic on hardcourt (2008 Canada Masters for the first time) and Roger Federer on grass (at the 2012 Olympics).
Dominic Thiem next joined the list in 2019. Interestingly, however, Thiem was the last to defeat Novak Djokovic on hardcourt amongst the three.
The Austrian first beat Rafael Nadal on clay at Buenos Aires 2016. He beat Roger Federer on grass that same year, in Stuttgart. However, Thiem had to wait until the 2019 ATP Finals before he could score a victory over the Serb on the latter's preferred surface.
Alexander Zverev, meanwhile, first defeated Roger Federer on grass at Halle 2016. The German then beat Novak Djokovic on hardcourt at the 2018 ATP Finals.
Looking closer at the wins of Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem & Andy Murray over Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic
1) 2016 Halle Open semifinals: Alexander Zverev beat Roger Federer 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3.
2) 2018 ATP Finals (title match): Alexander Zverev beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3.
3) 2021 Madrid Open quarterfinals: Alexander Zverev beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4.
1) 2016 Argentina Open semifinals: Dominic Thiem beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4).
2) 2016 Stuttgart Open semifinals: Dominic Thiem beat Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4.
3) 2019 ATP Finals (round-robin): Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (5).
1) 2008 Canada Masters quarterfinals: Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3).
2) 2012 London Olympics final: Andy Murray beat Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
3) 2015 Madrid Open final: Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2.
What sets Dominic Thiem & Andy Murray apart from Alexander Zverev?
In addition to the already phenomenal record of beating the Big 3 on their favorite surfaces, Dominic Thiem and Andy Murray have another distinction: they have managed to defeat at least one member from the trio on all three surfaces.
Andy Murray has wins over Novak Djokovic on hardcourt, grass and clay. Dominic Thiem, on the other hand, has defeated Roger Federer on all three surfaces.
Alexander Zverev, meanwhile, has only played Roger Federer on all three surfaces amongst the Big 3, but is yet to defeat the Swiss on clay.