Rafael Nadal may reach this year’s Mutua Madrid Open without the same dominance he has enjoyed in previous years, but with his performance this week seems to be close to finding the level we are used to. He comes from one of the best quarter-finals at Manolo Santana Stadium against Stan Wawrinka (6-1, 6-2) where he got qualified at the semifinal of the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid in just 65 minutes.
“Perfection does not exist, but it was one of the best matches for a while,” he said in Televisión Española after the game. “I would say it was my best game on clay this season at an important moment for me.”
In the first half hour Nadal showed Madrid supporters that he is very close to his best. Nadal’s masterclass covered every side of the game, taking the first set comfortably and then laid the groundwork for winning game number 20 for this year (20-4).
In the second, the Spaniard kept the throttle pressed, though he faced resistance on the other side of the net. Wawrinka defended a five-point break and in the sixth game Nadal eventually transformed one to take the lead (4-2). After another break, the fight was over and Nadal was in the semi-final.
For the third consecutive tournament (Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid), number two in the world rankings has reached this round, although both in the first ATP Masters 1000 on clay and at the Conde de Godo failed to move further, loosing to Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem, respectively.
In 2019, in Mallorca, he scored the record of Feliciano López with 17 appearances in the Spanish championship, which also now shares the record with Fernando Verdasco. And for the eleventh time, Nadal reached the semifinals, a round where he holds an 8-2 record in Madrid. The only time he failed to reach the final was 2008 (lost by Simon) and 2016 (lost by Andy Murray).
This time he will face Stefanos Tsitsipas, a player he has met three times before, in Barcelona in 2018, ATP Masters 1000 in Canada and the Australian Open. The Spaniard has not lost a single set but the Greek will come in for a fight after his victory against the tournament champion Alexander Zverev.
The great season of Stefanos Tsitsipas on clay continues in 2019 at the Mutua Madrid Open. His last victim in the tournament (after Adrian Mannarino and Fernando Verdasco) was the last holder of the title Alexander Zverev, who won in three sets at Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (7-5, 3-6, 6-2).
The last clash between them, again in a quarterfinal (though that time on a hard surface), ended with the same result as the Friday match. Victory for Tsitsipas, No. 9 in the world against the German, No. 4, a few days ago in Munich.
In the first set there were very few separators of the two players. Tsitsipas searched for a means to proceed to the set from the start and won three times more chances to break into the first game of the match. He had to wait until he was 6-5 to finally get his chance, and a game later, the set. There was no lack of enthusiasm in the second set too. There were no breakpoints until Zverev transformed to make it 5-3 before flattening the tie.
It was not long before Zverev had the opportunity to take the forecast for the semi-final qualifying, with a three-point break in the third game of the third set. If he had capitalized one of them, he would have picked up 2-1, but he did not. Tsitsipas quickly took advantage of the situation, killing 3-1 in front, keeping his own serve, breaking again and stamping the victory.
Having won in Estoril and Marseille, the Greek player still has the chance to win the third title of the season.
The race is expected to start at 10 o’clock Greek time.
Cover Image: AP