Perhaps Rafa Nadal arrived at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open without the same dominance he has enjoyed in previous seasons, but with the Manacor native’s performance at the Caja Mágica this week it is tempting to think that he is close to finding his A-game. He played some of his best tennis on Friday in the Manolo Santana Stadium against Stan Wawrinka (6-1, 6-2) to make his way to the semi-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid in 65 minutes.
“Perfection doesn’t exist, but it was one of the best matches for a while”, he told the microphones of Televisión Española after the match. “I would say it was my best match on clay this year at an important time for me”.
In the first half an hour Nadal showed the Madrid fans again that he is close to his best. Nadal’s masterclass covered every facet of the game and with two break points converted (100%) and 76% of points won on his serve, he took the first set comfortably and then fixed his sights on victory number 20 this year (20-4).
In the second, the Spaniard kept the pedal firmly to the metal, although he met some resistance on the other side of the net. Wawrinka defended five break points and in the sixth game Nadal finally converted one to take the lead (4-2). After another break the match was over and the Mallorcan was on his way to the semi-finals.
For the third consecutive tournament (Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid) the world number 2 has reached this round, although both in the year’s first ATP Masters 1000 on clay and at Conde de Godó he failed to progress any further, losing to Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem, respectively.
In 2019, the Balearic Islander has equalled Feliciano López’s record of 17 participations in the Spanish capital, also now sharing the record with Fernando Verdasco. And for the eleventh time, Nadal has reached the semi-finals, a round where he boasts an 8-2 record in Madrid. The only times he failed to reach the final came in 2008 (lost to Simon) and 2016 (lost to Andy Murray).
Stefanos Tsitsipas’ great year on clay continues at 2019 Mutua Madrid Open. His latest victim in the tournament (after Adrian Mannarino and Fernando Verdasco) was defending champion Alexander Zverev, whom he beat in three sets in the Arantxa Sánchez Vicario Stadium (7-5, 3-6, 6-2).
The last clash between them, also in the quarter-finals (although that time on hard court), ended with the same result as Friday’s match; victory for the Greek world number 9 over the German number 4 a few days ago in Munich.
In the first set there was little to separate the two players. Tsitsipas was probing for a means to go ahead in the set from the start and earned himself as many as three chances to break in the first game of the match. He had to wait until it was 6-5 to eventually take his chance and, a game later, the set. There was no lack of excitement in the second set either. There were no break points until the one that Zverev converted to make it 5-3 before levelling the tie.
It was not long before the German had a chance to get one foot in the door of the semi-final, with three break points in the third game of the third set. Had he capitalised on one of them he would have taken a 2-1 lead, but he failed to do so. Tsitsipas was quick to take advantage of the situation, breaking to go 3-1 ahead, holding his own serve, breaking again and then sealing the match.
Having won in Estoril and Marseille, the Greek player still has a chance to win what would be his third title of the season. Rafael Nadal or Stan Wawrinka will play the youngest player left in the competition for a place in the final.