Rafael Nadal is beaten in Madrid as changing of the tennis guard hots up

ATP Tour
Rafael Nadal looking ahead

He is the greatest of all-time on his favourite surface, but Rafael Nadal’s title as the ‘King of Clay’ may be slipping after his latest defeat on the red stuff.

Alexander Zverev earned his third straight victory against Rafael Nadal to reach his second Mutua Madrid Open semi-final and this time, he beat the legendary Spaniard in front of his home fans and on the surface he has made his own.

Zverev showed real class to come from 4-2 down in the first set to win four games in a row and he then took the second set 6-4 to add a third win to his record against Nadal after a victory at the 2019 ATP Finals and last year’s Paris Masters.

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Nadal still holds a 5-3 winning record against Zverev, but this latest defeat suggests he will be heading into the French Open with his aura shaken, as this defeat followed up his loss to Russian Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo last month.

“Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” said Zverev. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

Nadal was predictably dignified in defeat, as he suggested he was beaten by the better man.

“I had the match under control at the beginning, playing well for six games, probably playing better than him,” Nadal said. “In the 4-2 game, serving for 5-2, I had a disaster. Another bad game with my game from 30/0.

“Of course, playing against one of the best players of the world, under these circumstances, with this speed of the court, it is very difficult to still feel confident. I tried, it’s true that the serve was difficult to control today. Well done to him.”

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In a repeat of the 2018 championship match in Madrid, Zverev will face third seed Dominic Thiem for a place in the final after Thiem recovered from a set down to defeat three-time Madrid quarter-finalist John Isner 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Zverev won that match in Madrid three years ago, but his rivalry with Thiem has moved up a few notches since then after their epic US Open final was won by the Austraian in a last set tie-break last year.

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