Roland-Garros: Alexander Zverev, a big challenge for Rafael Nadal in the semifinals

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After his performance against Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal will play the first semi-final of the 2022 edition of the Roland Garros tournament on Friday. The Spaniard is king on the Parisian clay court. But his physical form worries as the mighty Alexander Zverev faces him.

Will Rafael Nadal celebrate his 36th birthday with a fourteenth qualifier for the Roland Garros final? On Friday, June 3, the Mallorcan blows out an extra candle. And for this special day, he’s entitled to a new match at the top, on that clay court where he’s already shone.

Three days after his legendary quarter-final against Novak Djokovic, which started on Tuesday night and ended on Wednesday at 1.16 a.m., Rafael Nadal returns to Philippe Chartier Court to face Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.

The German, currently third in the world rankings, has neither the track record nor the reputation of his opponent in Paris. And if Rafael Nadal, a paragon of professionalism, doesn’t want to underestimate the semi-finalist Alexander Zverev, he has the means to seize his opponent’s machine.

Zverev finally wants to win

In the quarterfinals, the nicknamed “Sascha” struck a blow when he knocked out Spanish phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz. The latter has been exceptional since the start of the year and seemed destined to find his elder Rafael Nadal in the semifinals in what could have looked like a handover between the veteran and the young prodigy. But Alexander Zverev got involved and defeated Carlos Alcaraz in four sets, earning himself the right to challenge the Sandmeister.

The German giant – 1.98m tall – was crowned Olympic champion in singles last summer in Tokyo and had already reached the semi-finals at the last edition of Roland-Garros. Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas then tamed him. This time he is hoping for the final, he who has never attached a Grand Slam tournament to his record – his best result: finalist of the US Open 2020.

After his success against Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev made no secret of his ambition. “I’m not 20 or 21 anymore. I’m 25. I’m in a phase where I want to win, where I’m supposed to win,” he said, still unsure whether he would face Novak Djokovic or not Rafael Nadal. But no matter which opponent, Alexander Zverev finally wants to concretise his progress with a Grand Slam title.

So he has to perform a feat: beating Rafael Nadal as a third man at Roland-Garros. In 17 years and 113 games at the Porte d’Auteuil, only Swede Robin Söderling (2009) and Serbian Novak Djokovic (2015 and 2021) have made it.

How is Nadal doing after his fight with Djokovic?

But the man with thirteen coronations in Paris will also need to be solid to overcome Zverev’s obstacle. The German serves very hard and develops an aggressive game. His power has already done damage: in nine encounters against him, Rafael Nadal has lost three times, including once on clay at the Madrid Masters 1000 in 2021. Those three defeats have been recorded in their last four head-to-head encounters. Face.

The “Bull of Manacor” also has to deal with another tough opponent: himself, more precisely his weakened body. The Spaniard made no secret of his physical condition. He suffered from Müller-Weiss syndrome, a necrosis of the scaphoid that causes chronic pain, and died in his left foot.

Granted, with care and plenty of anti-inflammatories, Rafael Nadal has been able to respond so far. But what condition is he in after his match against Djokovic, 4:12 long, knowing full well that he had already spent so much time on the court in the preliminary round against Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime?

“It will be a physical challenge, but also a mental one. Normally, when Rafa Djokovic beats in a Grand Slam tournament, it’s in the final and he wins the trophy. But this time it was a quarter-final. He has two days to to recover, but it will.” be a tough test for Rafa,” warned ex-British tennis player Tim Henman, former Eurosport agent. Whether legend Nadal triumphs again or the ambitious Zverev wins, this semi-final will be worth its weight in gold.

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