‘Difficult to understand,’ Nadal on losing to Zverev

Rafael Nadal went down in straight sets to Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinal of the Madrid Masters

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Rafael Nadal rued missed opportunities as he went down to Alexander Zverev

Rafael Nadal admitted that his 4-6, 4-6 defeat to Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinal of the Madrid Masters on Friday was ‘difficult to understand’.

Nadal was leading 4-2 in the opening set but a string of errors saw him, inexplicably, lost four games in a row to the 2018 Madrid champion.

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“This is very difficult to understand, especially for me,” said Nadal in the post-match press conference.

“When this happens to me, it’s usually in the opposite way – I find a way to win sets even though I’m not playing my best or as good as the opponent.

“I’m leaving Madrid with an overall positive feeling, but at the same time with the ugly feeling of having played a match like this today against a great player.

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“I think for most of the first set, I was playing better than him. And this is the negative part; while playing better than him in the first set, I still lost 6-4.”

This was Zverev’s third consecutive victory over Nadal, and the first on clay, taking his ATP head-to-head record to 3-5.

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Five-time Madrid champion Nadal fired only six winners across both sets, and more than doubled the unforced error count at 17.

His normally deadly forehand only generated four of those winners, and 10 of the errors. By contrast, Zverev fired 28 winners – including 18 off the forehand – to dictate the outcome.

The Spaniard also believes that Zverev’s serve was near impossible to play at Madrid’s high-altitude. Zverev’s average first serve speed was 25 kph faster than Nadal’s (217 kph to 192) on Friday and bounced much higher.

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“It’s not that I wasn’t able to find my ‘minimum level’, it’s that you’re playing against someone whose serve gets you into big trouble,” the 34-year-old said.

“Every serve goes above 220, so in conditions like these I have to return like six metres behind the baseline and even then I’m still hitting the returns at shoulder height.”

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