French Open Semifinal Preview: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev 2022 French Open Quarterfinals
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Rafael Nadal is on the hunt for his 14th title at Roland Garros but will have to stave off Alexander Zverev who hopes to raise his first Grand Slam title at week’s end.

The 35-year-old Spaniard had a blistering 21-0 record to start the 2022 season, winning two titles in Melbourne and one in Acapulco. However, a broken rib and nagging foot injury had pundits questioning whether the ‘King of Clay’ would be ready for a two-week run in Paris.

Nadal has undoubtedly laid to rest any doubts about his form but has yet to let a presser go by where he does not mention the possibility of this being his last time playing at Roland Garros.

On the other side of the net will stand 6-foot-6 Alexander Zverev who is into the semi-finals at the French Open for a second consecutive year.

The German star has been plagued with both on-court and off-court drama this season but has seemingly done a great job blocking out the noise when he steps between the lines.

With #8 Casper Ruud taking on #20 Marin Cilic in semi-final #2, you have to believe the winner of this match will be the favorite to raise the title.

The road to the semi-finals

As the #5 seed, Nadal won his first three matches over Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet, and #26 Botic Van De Zandschulp in straight sets. His Round of 16 match against #9 Felix Auger Aliassime was a five-set battle of determination, seeing him top the Canadian 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 in 4 hours and 23 minutes.

He followed that up with an all-time performance against #1 seed Novak Djokovic. Rafa seemed unphased by his opponent, controlling the pace of the match and riding his forehand to a 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 victory.

#3 seed Alexander Zverev bested qualifier Sebastian Ofner in straight sets before having to come back from two sets down in Round 2 against Sebastian Baez. The young Baez is known as a clay-court ringer, but the struggles Zverev showed in the match were concerning.

The German then downed Brandon Nakashima and Bernabe Zapata Miralles in straight sets before a quarter-final matchup with then tournament favorite Carlos Alcaraz.

Zverev played phenomenal tennis from both wings, forcing the young Spaniard to play near-perfect points to have a chance at victory. Sascha prevailed 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-6 to capture his maiden victory over a top-ten opponent at a Grand Slam.

By the numbers

Nadal holds a 6-3 head-to-head advantage over the German, having won four of the five matches played on clay. With that said, Alexander Zverev has won three of the past four meetings between the two.

Rafael Nadal holds a 2022 record of 29-4. He is 8-2 on the clay this season.

Sascha Zverev holds a 2022 record of 29-11. He is 17-4 on the clay this season.

The difference

The will to win will be at an all-time high for both players.

Both Nadal and Zverev enter this semi-final matchup battle-tested and in near peak form.

To expect prior injuries to play a factor in Nadal’s performance is foolish and short-sighted. The two days off between his last match should put to rest any talk of fatigue or injury.

The flat and powerful Zverev backhand playing cross-court to Nadal and one of the best forehands in the history of the sport will be very fun to watch. Expect Zverev to be aggressive with his backhand down the line in hopes of keeping the Spaniard off balance.

Zverev has pounded 56 aces thus far in Paris. He must have a good serving day if he wants to have success against Rafa. If he can rack up enough free points, I believe Zverev has a great chance at winning this match.

Alexander Zverev has been on the brink of Grand Slam glory multiple times. I believe this is the tournament he finally gets over the hump.

Prediction: Zverev in 5

 

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