Nadal Moves Into Madrid Masters QFs, Will Face Zverev; Tsitsipas Shocked By Ruud, Rublev Ousted
by Staff | May 6th, 2021, 5:53 pm
  • 1 Comment

Rafael Nadal rolled into his 15th career home Madrid Masters quarterfinals thumping Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-3.

Nadal, who was won the Madrid clay title four times, blunted the Australian’s big serve breaking him four times.

Nadal has now won his last seven matches and improves to 13-2 on the season.

“It was difficult. The court today was slippery, it was very fast, very dry conditions. The ball was flying a lot. The beginning of the match was super tough,” Nadal told the crowd. “He was hitting every ball and hitting the spots. Very happy with the victory. It was an important victory, he came here playing well. Every match is tough.”

Nadal gets a big step-up in class tomorrow as he faces former champion Alexander Zverev. The German held off Dan Evans 6-3, 7-6(3).

Nadal leads 5-2 but Zverev has won the last two beating Rafa indoors at Paris last year and the 2019 ATP Finals.

“I’ve beaten him the last few times that we’ve played but obviously beating him on a clay court is very different,” Zverev said to ATPTour.com. “I’ve had some tough battles. I think also when you beat him a few times in a row it doesn’t matter where it is he’s going to be more motivated to beat you the next few times.”

Zverev hasn’t made a clay semifinal since a 2018 Rome loss to Nadal.

Dominic Thiem continued a strong return easing past Alex De Minaur 7-6(7), 6-4. Thiem, a 2-time Madrid finalist, had to save a set point in the first set breaker.

“I think it was pretty good match from both of us, I would say,” Thiem said. “For me it was perfect because obviously he’s first of all a top player, and second of all he also likes to play longer rallies. There were some good, long rallies. I was many, many times out of breath. It was perfect for me to get back a little bit the match rhythm, to run down a lot of balls.

“It was a match that had everything. As it’s my first tournament, as it’s my way back, a buildup for the next week, it was great for me.”

Up next for Thiem won’t be his good friend Andrey Rublev, but instead American big man John Isner. Isner won his second straight final set breaker beating Rublev 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(4) on Arantxa Sanchez court.

“It is my favorite clay court probably,” Isner said of the second court. “That court that I played all my matches on, it has an indoor feel even though it’s not I guess fully indoors. It’s got a great sound to it. The court is fast. To me doesn’t seem like there’s too much clay on the court, so it kind of plays, of all the clay courts I play on, plays closest to a hard court of any of them.

“The altitude in Madrid just really helps my serve. The ball goes through the air very fast. You put all those things together, it’s a good recipe for me to do some damage on serve,” he added.

“I’ve always served well here. The conditions for my serve are fantastic. Physically, you know, I was a little bit heavy-legged today. I finished late last night, pretty late. I went to bed pretty late after dinner, treatment, whatnot. The good thing is that I finished a bit earlier today, I should be able to get to bed at a decent time, get a good night’s sleep, be ready to go tomorrow.

“I’m going to need every bit of my legs tomorrow against Dominic. I’m looking forward to it, for sure.”

Isner finished with 29 aces and never faced a break point against the higher-ranked Russian.

Thiem leads Isner 2-1 but the two haven’t played since the 2017 Laver Cup.

“He’s definitely fresh right now,” Isner said of the Austrian. “He’s won two matches. He’s, in my opinion, the second best clay-courter in the world right now. So it’s going to be a very tough task for me tomorrow, especially on this court. He hits the ball so big. It’s pretty fast. He just does so many things well.

“I’m going to have to play extremely well if I want to have any chance to beat him.”

Rublev’s loss wasn’t the big surprise on the day. That came courtesy of Casper Ruud who stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4 to earn his first career Top 5 win and arguably the best win of his career.

Ruud’s serve has been dominant all week. The 22-year-old Norwegian dropped serve or even faced a break point all week! Today against the Greek, he won the lone break point of the match in the second set.

“He is one of the best players this year on the tour, one of the ones who has won the more matches,” Ruud said of Tsitsipas.

“But the conditions are a bit different here than other clay courts with the fast shots, the ball traveling faster through the air because of the altitude. You get a lot of free points with the serve that you don’t usually do on the clay courts. I think that also today went a bit in my advantage. I felt like he was doing some mistakes that he doesn’t always do. I was just trying to take care of the chances that I got, like I said.”

Ruud will now meet Alexander Bublik who upended Aslan Karatsev 6-4, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev also crashed out as Cristian Garin beat the Russian 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-1 to make the quarterfinals. He’ll face Matteo Berrettini who knocked out Federico Delbonis 7-6(4), 6-4.

With all the upsets, there will be a new Masters finalist from the bottom half.

“The draw is maybe a bit more open in the bottom half now that Medvedev lost and Stefanos lost today,” Ruud said. “It’s more open, yes. There are not that many high seeds left in the lower part of the draw.

“But tomorrow I’m playing Bublik. He’s definitely playing very well here in Madrid. He also won three matches. He’s serving unbelievable. He can do anything with the ball. He can play dropshots and winners, the most incredible shots. Underarm serve. I have to tomorrow be prepared for everything.

“It’s the fair and square match tomorrow. He’s a tough opponent. I have to focus about one match at a time. But definitely this also helps to motivate to fight even more, to be able to reach the longer steps of the tournament.”


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