QF Preview: Will Nadal Continue Making History Against Zverev?
The five-time champion will take on Alexander Zverev to earn a spot in his 75th ATP Masters 1000 semi-final. The legendary lefty will try to ride the support of the Spanish crowd against his German foe.
“It’s always special to play here,” Nadal said. “There is no one place in the world [where] I have the support that I have here. It’s great to have some crowd back with us. We need more, honestly. But at least we have some, and that means everything to us.”
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Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head Series 5-2, but Zverev has won their past two meetings, both on indoor hard courts. The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion has the utmost respect for the top seed.
“It's the toughest thing in our sport to play Rafa on clay, especially I think in Spain it's the most difficult task that you can do,” Zverev said. “But I'm also somebody that looks forward to these kinds of moments and I'm definitely looking forward to tomorrow's match.”
The winner will play third seed Dominic Thiem or John Isner. The 36-year-old American has won two consecutive matches in a final-set tie-break — Isner upsetting sixth seed Andrey Rublev 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(4) to make the last eight — to earn a shot at the Austrian star. Thiem leads their ATP Head2Head Series 2-1.
“He's definitely fresh right now. He's won two matches,” Isner said of two-time Madrid finalist Thiem. “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.”
Thiem, who is playing in his first clay tournament of the season, beat Alex de Minaur 7-6(7), 6-4 on Thursday. The reigning US Open champion’s last tournament was in Dubai, but he has quickly rounded into form in the Spanish capital.
Although all four players on the top half of the draw have competed in at least an ATP Masters 1000 final (the only one who hasn’t won a title at this level, Thiem, is the reigning US Open champion), none of the players on the bottom half had previously played the Madrid main draw.
Eighth seed Matteo Berrettini will take on 16th seed Cristian Garin, who upset second seed Daniil Medvedev on Thursday. They have split two previous ATP Head2Head matches, with Garin triumphing in a final-set tie-break in the Munich final on clay two years ago.
“It's going to be a really tough match. Cristian is playing well,” Berrettini said. “I'm confident. I'm playing good. I'm enjoying the fight. I'm ready to fight.”
Bublik, who halted the run of red-hot Russian Aslan Karatsev, is the first Kazakh to reach a Masters 1000 quarter-final. Ruud can make it three consecutive clay-court semi-finals at this level if he is able to get by the World No. 44.
“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,” Ruud said. “He can play drop shots and winners, the most incredible shots. Underarm serve. I have to be prepared for everything tomorrow.”
Bublik entered the year with a 1-5 record at Masters 1000 events, but he is already 6-2 this year with two quarter-finals at this level.
ORDER OF PLAY - FRIDAY, MAY 07, 2021
MANOLO SANTANA STADIUM start 1:00 pm
ATP -  D. Thiem (AUT) vs J. Isner (USA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP -  R. Nadal (ESP) vs  A. Zverev (GER)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP - A. Bublik (KAZ) vs C. Ruud (NOR)
ATP -  M. Berrettini (ITA) vs  C. Garin (CHI)
ARANTXA SANCHEZ STADIUM
Not Before 4:00 pm
ATP -  M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs  P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA)
After Suitable Rest - ATP - R. Bopanna (IND) / D. Shapovalov (CAN) vs T. Puetz (GER) / A. Zverev (GER)
COURT 4 start 1:00 pm
ATP -  W. Koolhof (NED) / L. Kubot (POL) vs  N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
ATP - S. Gille (BEL) / J. Vliegen (BEL) vs  I. Dodig (CRO) / F. Polasek (SVK)