Alexander Zverev on Friday defeated Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4 for his third straight win against the Spaniard on way to his second Madrid Open tennis semi-final.

The German will now face third seed Dominic Thiem for a place in the final.

Thiem recovered from a set down to defeat three-time Madrid quarter-finalist John Isner 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Zverev, who had also defeated Nadal at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals and last year’s Rolex Paris Masters, rallied from 2-4 down in the first set to clinch his first clay-court win against the five-time Madrid champion.

“[It is] 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,” Zverev said in his post-match interview. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible, but the tournament is not over yet.”

Zverev, who is yet to lose a set this week, is two wins away from his second Madrid title. The 24-year-old player owns a 13-2 record at La Caja Magica, highlighted by his run to the 2018 trophy when he did not drop serve throughout the tournament.

Nadal played with consistent depth to extract errors and gain the first break of the match at 3-2, but Zverev responded immediately to claim four straight games and the opening set.

The German caught Nadal out at the net with back-to-back passing shots at 4-2 and, two games later, he used his cross-court forehand to drag Nadal out of position and gain the decisive break.

Zverev continued to pile the pressure on the top seed’s serve in the second set. Nadal was able to escape danger at 1-1 with an inspired drop shot, but Zverev stepped inside the baseline and dictated with his forehand to convert his next chance at 2-2.

The world No. 6 maintained his advantage on serve and converted his first match point when Nadal fired a crosscourt forehand into the net.

“I had the match under control at the beginning, playing well for six games, probably playing better than him,” Nadal said.

–IANS

akm/qma