After losing to Alexander Zverev last week in the Madrid quarterfinals week ago, Rafael Nadal had his revenge today at the very same stage in Rome.
The 9-time Rome champion had scary tumble late in the first but otherwise was in control of the hot-handed German in a 6-3, 6-4 win. Nadal, who had just played two very tough matches against Jannik Sinner and yesterday’s marathon against Denis Shapovalov, showed no signs of fatigue and was able to save all eight break points faced in the second set.
“It’s a completely different match here than Madrid,” Nadal said of the conditions. “Here situation is a little bit different. Still a very difficult match because he’s a fantastic player. He likes to play here. He already won the tournament here.
“I was able to play much more solid than last week. I think I did a lot of things well today. I was able to change more the rhythm of the ball on the point. Yeah, have been a positive match for me.”
Zverev, who had won his last three against Nadal, falls to 6-3 against the Spaniard.
“I fighted a lot yesterday. I suffered a lot, but I was able to find a way to win a very complicated match. That gives me the chance to be on court again today,” Nadal said. “Today I played much better than yesterday. I did a lot of things well, playing much more solid. So, yeah, I think I played one of the more solid match on clay this year against a very tough opponent.
“It’s a great victory for me. Of course it’s important because under pressure, under tough moments that sometimes I lost important points last couple of weeks, today, yesterday, before yesterday too, I was able to manage it well.
“I’m super happy, because after the battle of yesterday, to be able to be on court against a player like Sascha, he had tough match too, but he’s more than 10 years younger than me.”
Tomorrow, it will be a much different match for Nadal who will go up against surprise semifinalist Reilly Opelka. The towering American posted his best result of the year besting qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-5, 7-6(2).
Delbonis had break chances at the start of the match, but that was it as Opelka smacked 18 aces en route to his first Masters semifinal. He hasn’t dropped a set or his serve all week!
“I haven’t played much on clay,” Opelka said.
“I’m really pleased. We have been working hard. I made some adjustments on my game. It’s nice to see them come into play.”
Nadal talked about a first meeting with Opelka.
“He’s a very tough opponent to play,” Nadal said. “Super difficult. He has huge, huge serve. So I need to be very focused with my serve and try to give myself some chances on the return.
“I know he has a huge serve and he’s able to play aggressive from the baseline too. So I need to play well.”
The second semifinal remains undecided due to rain which prevented the completion of the men’s quarterfinals.
Novak Djokovic had his hands full with Stefanos Tsitsipas. In a rematch of their 5-set French Open semifinal, Tsitsipas jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Djokovic clawed back in. Rains halted play with Tsitsipas still up a break and when they resumed, the Greek took the set and then went up a break 6-4, 2-1 in the second before play was stopped for a final time.
Italian hope Lorenzo Sonego and Andrey Rublev never event took the court.
ROME SATURDAY SCHEDULE
Center Court Starts At 11:00 Am
QF 1 Novak Djokovic v 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas TBF 4/6 1/2
Not Before 12:00 Noon
SF 9 Karolina Pliskova v Petra Martic
Not Before 1:00 Pm
SF Reilly Opelka v 2 Rafael Nadal
Not Before 3:00 Pm
SF Coco Gauff v Swiatek or Svitolina
Not Before 6:30 Pm
SF Djokovic or Tsitsipas v Sonego or Rublev
Grand Stand Arena Starts At 11:00 Am
QF Lorenzo Sonego v 7 Andrey Rublev
Pietrangeli Stats at 11:00 Am
15 Iga Swiatek v 5 Elina Svitolina
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