Nadal Downs Djokovic, Faces Zverev For Rome Title, Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | May 19th, 2018, 11:19 pm
  • 77 Comments

Fittingly, the two best clay court players this season, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, collide in the final warm up for the French Open.

Earlier today, Nadal got through Novak Djokovic in their first meeting in over a year. After a very subpar start to the 2018, Djokovic actually looked pretty decent at times today, but with that forehand humming, it was too much Nadal.

Rafa got an early break, blew it serving for the first, but his forehand bailed him out in the breaker. Then he rode the momentum for a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory. Djokovic still leads the series 26-25 but Rafa has won the last two, both in straight sets.

“It was a tough battle, I think a good level of tennis,” Nadal said. “combination of tactics, a combination of great shots for both of us. Very important victory for me. I’m very happy.”

Rafa wasn’t at his best, I felt, but he did just enough. Meanwhile, Djokovic, as I said, did well and for his fans he gave them some much-needed hope for the French.

Novak’s serve still isn’t there and I don’t think he moves as well as he did, but he showed a lot of fire and want this week, something I didn’t really see back in March. That said, he’ll fall outside of the Top 20 at No. 22, leaving him a precarious seeding position come Paris.

“Rafa was just better in important moments. He just managed to play right shots and he deserved to win. He was the better player,” said Djokovic. “I don’t think that there was too much of a difference, which is great for me, great news for me. Because Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay courts. And he’s in great, great form. It’s very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. But as I said, I thought the level of my tennis was very high.

“All in all, really, really good quality match,” he added. “I enjoyed it. I hope the crowd did, too. And I can only take positives from this week.”

In the second match, playing in his first clay Masters semi, Marin Cilic put up a good fight in an epic first set breaker, but once again the Croat came up just short against a Top 5 player (he missed 5 set points chances). Alexander Zverev was just a bit better in big moments, came from a break down in the second, and took it 7-6(13), 7-5.

Zverev has won his last 13 matches dropping just one single set, that to Davis Goffin a few days ago. But will the defending champ keep it going?

Rafael Nadal v Alexander Zverev
I know Zverev has the streak and he won Rome last year, but he’s never beaten Nadal on clay nor has he beaten Nadal anywhere for that matter (0-4).

Obviously, Zverev has the firepower and right now the confidence, but Nadal’s the King of Clay for a reason and it’s awfully hard to pick against him, even though the German is playing so well.

“It will be a tough one. Sascha is playing great, winning a lot of matches in a row. Playing against Marin, he’s having a great year,” Nadal said. “Tomorrow I need to be ready to keep playing my best and that’s what I’m going to try.”

If Rafa wins tomorrow, he also returns to No. 1 and gets the top seeding in Paris. But an eighth Rome title sounds nice as well.

“If I am back to No. 1, it’s great,” said Nadal on Saturday. “Better than to be No. 2, it’s true. My motivation is to win a title and I am playing for this tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Zverev, who just won Madrid, will have to try to beat Nadal for a first time and have to do it on clay.

“There’s not much you need to say about him. He’s won so many tournaments on this surface, won the French Open 10 times, so I’m definitely not the favourite in this matchup,” said Zverev. “But hopefully I’ll be ready for it. I’ll do everything I can to recover and we’ll see tomorrow how it goes.

“We’ve had some very tough matches,” Zverev added. “In Indian Wells, I lost with a match point and in Australia we went five sets. Obviously we had some great battles and I’ve always enjoyed playing him. He’s the greatest of all time on clay, but hopefully I can prepare the best I can for tomorrow.”

Again, Zverev has the shots, the game, the serve. It’s all there except for the experience of having defeated Rafa. And that’s really the difference.
The Pick: Nadal in 3

Tennis Channel will have the match live at 10am ET. And that comes after what could another French Open final preview in the women’s Rome title match which pits World No. 1 Simona Halep against defending champion Elina Svitolina (not on Tennis Channel!).

It’s not a Slam so I give the edge to the Ukraine, especially after she had an easy day beating Anett Kontavait while Halep and Maria Sharapova traded 19 breaks of serve before the Romanian won 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

“I was happy to be able to play so well, and in the end win the match,” Halep said. “It’s always tough to play against her so I was really happy, and I celebrated how I felt. I tried to be aggressive the whole match, and I did it even if sometimes it went too far.

“I think I played my best match on clay, and I’m really happy that even though she played her best, I won the match.”

Svitolina beat Halep in the final a year ago and leads overall 3-2 winning their last two.

“It’s nice that we are again in the final, both of us,” Halep said. “It’s going to be a nice match, but I hope I don’t get injured again. I started well last year, so the game is there, I know how to play. But still, she’s a very tough opponent and a great player. I have to be focused on myself and play my best.”

So it’s a big day tomorrow in Rome, and two finals we could certainly see again three weekends from now!


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77 Comments for Nadal Downs Djokovic, Faces Zverev For Rome Title, Who’s The Pick?

chofer Says:

Answer to the headline

Duh!


fred stone Says:

Third point, 41 seconds to serve.
Vamos, gamesmanship.


Daniel Says:

2 service games and no hold for Zverev. Match over.


Daniel Says:

40-0 and Zverev can’t hold. deuce.


Daniel Says:

Let’s just fast forward to grass already. Everybody knows bar injury Nadal gets his 17th Slam and 11th RG.

The only ones who can beat him on clay is Thiem, who may not even get there to play him and Djoko who still is not there. So, he has no competition on clay.


Daniel Says:

Won only 11 points. His serve is lacking power. He mostly is tired. Rested it would already be hard, tired is impossible.

Started promising with a break for him but he didn’t held serve once.


osazone Says:

The final was yesterday – spectators should ask for their money back.
Next Gen. Pretenders-:(


Rick Says:

Rafa is thumping Zverev. Rooferer being one week number one. Order restores. Lol


Daniel Says:

That passing shot sitter FH to go 4-0 up and serve. Guess who will be broken next game?!


Daniel Says:

Damm, 2 BH guns, one cross court and anther DTL to close the break. 4-0 up. If he holds now for 5-0 think we’ll have a third set. 4-0 up against Nadal on clay still is not safe lol


Anto Says:

Sasha double break up (4-0). About to serve for 5-0


Anto Says:

Can Sasha do the impossible? Bagel nadal on clay!


osazone Says:

looks like a bagel for nadal:-)


Daniel Says:

Wow, 15-30 and he wins 3 points with authority. He is pumped up for all those wins lately. 5-0 up think its safe a third set. Nadal even risk getting a bagel on clay. He will serve under pressure knowing this can happen and verve will play this game freely.

Don’t know last time somebody bagel Nadal on clay, Fed in Hamburg 2007!


Anto Says:

@Daniel. I think that was the only instance before.


Daniel Says:

Zevrev found the range on BH cross court to Nadal’s FH corner, painting the lines, same shot Djoko was using yesterday.


Daniel Says:

No bagels. Nadal send the pressure tp Zverev to close the set. Let’s see if nerves creeps in.


Daniel Says:

Zverev bad on volleys today, not killing the points with it. 0-30 down already.


Anto Says:

Even if zverev fucks up a game he wont do it a second time. So 3rd set it is.


Anto Says:

Now this is how i want Nadal matches to be.


Tiago Says:

Nadal being crashed.


osazone Says:

finally the spectactors get their moneys worth – Zverev looking good…possible upset


Anto Says:

Now if zverev can keep up his game. We are gonna get a great 3rd set.


Daniel Says:

What a way to close, 0-30 down and he wins 4 points closing with a BH DTL winner.

If he control his mistakes, keeps the first serve up 65% and keeps hitting deep pushing Nadal back he has a chance. Nadal had only 1 winner the whole second set.

Only thing he needs to improve are volleys. He is caring with some great drop shots.

Expecting Nadal to raise the level and be more aggressive, he will go for the lines more.

At least we have a match, is not always Nadal loses a set 6-1 on a clay final.


Madmax Says:

A VERY GOOD MATCH, with passion and heart. Foregone conclusion, but if Zverev can keep his head, he has a very small chance.

Nothing is written in stone, so far Sean, you are correct.


Margot Says:

I’ve watched Zverev a lot Daniel, I don’t think he has nerves TBH.
Don’t expect him to keep this level up, or rather expecting Rafa to raise his.
Very impressed with how much damage Pretty Boy’s two hander is doing. Very, very effective shot, pinning Rafa to the corner on his back hand.


Daniel Says:

Wow, Nadal attracting Nadal to the net and passing shot with spin and height. 3rd BP.


Anto Says:

Looks like nadal is gonna lose this match. The only downside being Nadal wont be number 1 any more this year most probably.


Tiago Says:

Rafa is acting like a little girl complaining.

C’mon play and accept you are being outplayed.


Margot Says:

Lol Daniel, is Rafa playing himself now!


j-kath Says:

Rafa – Get your finger out….your fans will have no nails left to chew.


Daniel Says:

Margot,

Zverev BH is making damage whole clay season, seems to me he improved that shot which already was his greater tool.

Yesterday he showed computer versus Cilic (who maybe didn’t capitalize when Zvrev was pissed). Today he seems ready after second set. 2-1 up a break but he needs 4 more holds or an insurance break.

He will have to play big from now to the finish line. Nadal also may get desperate and star making mistakes, we saw that versus Djoko ninth past when he was broken to lose the match, with Djoko not even needing to serve it out.


Daniel Says:

3-1, 3 more games to go.


Daniel Says:

Lol margot, now that I saw it.

Humm, rain. Was thinking this today, that this whole clay season there weren’t any matches postponed or delayed due to rain. Very unusual. Now this in finals.


Tiago Silva Says:

maybe this might help Nadal.


Margot Says:

Oh blow! It’s starting to rain. That will disadvantage Pretty Boy. He must be absolutely knackered by now and will seize up.


Daniel Says:

Yes Tiago, and there are some who say that only Federer gets grumpy when losing. Nadal pissed as hell, almost threw his racquet at one point.


Daniel Says:

Court will get heavier now, which is even worse for Nadal


Daniel Says:

Hope this delay don’t take Zverev off his groove, he is impeccable so far after first set.


j-kath Says:

Daniel – Think they all get frustrated when they can’t unlock their particular magic when they need it most?????


Daniel Says:

Yeah j-k, frustration is normal.

Well, another rain delay this time with players leaving court. Will hit the gym hope to get the end of it. Go Zverev!


Madmax Says:

Come on Zverev, but unfortunately not to be in this match, – rain delay – a much needed reprieve for Rafa. Still expect him to come through, what a grumpy knickers! Stop whining!


osazone Says:

Question for anyone who knows the answer
during rain breaks do they isolate them from their coaches?


osazone Says:

I forgot to add if they leave the court


Tennis Lover Says:

Nadal plays similar brand of tennis as Penaldo plays in soccer. Both depends on their robust stamina and zero creativity. When, penaldo flops he cries for penalty, so is Nadal. Now, his game is not clicking against Zavarev so he is whining and whinging like penaldo. However, a great opportunity for young Zavarev to prove whether he is worthy of putting himself into the shoes of greats or he is just fluke sensation like Dimitrov, Nishikori and other so called youngstars


Daniel Says:

Get back, looks like rain delay messes Zverev for broken after having game point first and now returns short.


Margot Says:

osazone, I’m pretty sure they have access to their coaches.
Yep, rain delay favours Rafa.


gonzalowski Says:

Oh no, Nadal has passed to his bench BEFORE Zverev, he never does so, and always lets the other pass…
is gonna lose this!!


Daniel Says:

Fu#$%^ng rain. 3-1 and will lose 4 straight games to lose because of rain. Give me a roof and same condition form start to finish anyway.

A great match spoiled by rain break changing completely.


osazone Says:

Margot – Thanks for the answer


Daniel Says:

Stop with drop shots and go for BH DTL instead.


Daniel Says:

Congrats Nadal, winning on experience and a bit f luck! He may very well got back even without the rain, but the rain spoil the party. Winning a Rome title again since 2013, back at #1 for at least 3 more weeks.

Almost certain win at RG #11 and 17th Salm. Players can hardly win 2 sets off him this season (only Thiem), let alone 3 in RG courts.


gonzalowski Says:

yeeess!!!! the rain saved him, but this is clay


gonzalowski Says:

Daniel, maybe favourite to RG, but it’s clear that Thiem, Zverev and Nole can beat him on a normal day.


Giles Says:

My deepest commiserations to all of you rooting for Zverev especially Madmax (poor you, try and get some sleep tonite ) lol and Daniel and the others.
Brilliant Rafa. What a Champ!!


osazone Says:

The Gods smiled on Rafa with the rain delay :-), however Sasha reverted back to his sitting back behind the baseline…..he should remember what he did in sets 2 and part of 3, however Rafa did play badly in set 2.

Hopefully Sasha translates this to GS tourneys

Anyways congrats to Rafa, back to No 1.


Daniel Says:

gonzalowski,

Only if they were to ace him earlier in the tourney (which can only happen for Novak), in semis or finals, he is already grooved and pumped up. No way he loses 3 sets to Thiem or Zverev in RG. Zverev never beat him (even after today). They just can’t sustain it.

Djoko may do it again if the meet in R32 – QF. Will depend on draw.

Raonic also out of RG together with Tsonga, Fed, Murray and most likely DelPo.


Giles Says:

Rafa back to #1.
👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏


gonzalowski Says:

sky commentators speaking about some Rafa’s confidence issues at Madrid vs Thiem, and today 2nd set, but well, it’s sport


Humble Rafa Says:

Since this win was aided by a rain delay, tennis purists may want to decrease my title count by 2.

In other unrelated matters, I am now number 1.


Giles Says:

Lovely speech from Sascha.


gonzalowski Says:

yes Giles, agree, good speaker this guy


osazone Says:

I love the shout out to to Uncle Toni from Sasha, that was awesome


gonzalowski Says:

Oh and Rafa in italian, qui cosa


osazone Says:

It is much difficult to beat Rafa in RG not bcos of just the 5 set format, but due to the fact that Rafa has more Landscape behind the baseline on Court Philippe Chatrier for him to defend from


Madmax Says:

it is a pity for the rain delay, but great champions overcome things like this and bad tempers in order to proceed.

Zverev will have his day, one day. Great to see him put up a fight though and that is what we want to see – no pushovers that is for sure.

Well done to Rafa again.


Amit Says:

Sascha.is one good player!! Wow!! He does gimme hope of beating Rafa/Fed at slams and then winning title there!! I dont remember anyone handing a breadstick to Rafa on clay! Well done Sascha!! And better done Rafa!!! Wow!! Was a great match! Congratulations to Rafs and Rafans!!!👍👍👍


Okiegal Says:

Loved Z’s speech l…….lovely and heartfelt…..


Humble Rafa Says:

Anybody that recognizes Uncle Toni is a great scholar, gentleman, philosopher and a great credit to the human race.


Markus Says:

Is there still any doubt about Nadal winning his 11th French Open? Even Mother Nature loves him.


Humble Rafa Says:

My mother has always loved me and nature. So it’s no surprise that Mother Nature also loves me now.


Humble Rafa Says:

Friendly reminder to mental midgets with hope, French Open is best of five sets.


Okiegal Says:

Thanks Amit for your congrats! Appreciate it! It was a real nail biter for this fan…… I got very nervous!!

Rafa has always been #1 in my ❤️……whether or not he was the #1 player in the world!
#bestofbothworlds

VAMOS!!


Amit Says:

Okiegal:

Rafa is indeed deserving to be #1 in hearts of billions! Rafa is no less a tennis player than Fed though I like Fed for his smooth simple yet forceful style of play! Both are credits to tennis but i do root for Fed for his playing style..😌 Rafa has every chance and much time to supercede the achievements of Fed, though I’d like Fed to stay clear of him GS tally-wise.. However, if there’s one great player who deserves to supercede Fed in greatness, it’s your fave Rafa! And Rafa is great imho at wimbledon too, truly!! I doubt anyone can match Rafa there except my guy playing at his very best, even though djokovic has one more wimby trophy! And that 2008 Wimbledon triumph of Nadal vs Federer is forever in minds of any tennis loving fan! #nostalgia


Amit Says:

Okiegal

Nadal performance at 2008 Wimbledon final is probably the best of this millenium tbh imho! 💪👏👏👏


AndyMira Says:

Amit!….Thank u so much for the congrats!…You’re one of the BEST Fedfans i’ve ever known u know that?Of coz there’s a couple of names too!…

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