Saturday, 21 January 2017

Nadal beats Zverev in a belter

The established versus the new - 9th seed Rafa Nadal against 24th seed Alexander Zverev, one of the group of designated young guns for whom future success at the highest level is predicted.

Nadal appears the fittest he has for awhile and is playing quality tennis, not at his historic best, but enough to threaten anyone in this draw.
He tore apart Florian Mayer and Marcos Baghdatis in the first two rounds, and his opponent arrived here today courtesy of wins over Robin Haase and Frances Tiafoe.

Rafa served first and a rifled crosscourt backhand was insufficient to avoid a break, Zverev showing no sign of nerves.
Big serving already in evidence, Zverev cleared the 30-30 dilemma with consummate ease to lead 2-0.

Nadal survived a brilliant lob winner and a couple of slashing forehands, which assisted Zverev to another break point, and in turn contributed forehands of his own from the top shelf. 2-1 Zverev.

Saving a break point himself, Zverev held serve and that was the case for he and Nadal for the next three games after that.  Each game was becoming more straightforward for the server.
4-3 Zverev, still with the luxury of a break.

Taken to deuce while serving for the set, Zverev was cool in the situation and enjoyed the Nadal error on set point.  An ideal start to the German, 6-4.
He would need to improve his first serve percentage though if he was to continue to keep Nadal at bay.

Rafa made the early running in set two, serving first and well.
At 1-2, Zverev put in his first real shocker for the afternoon, serving inconsistently and making too many mistakes all over the court.  Nadal tasted blood and was swiftly in for the kill, breaking for 3-1.

Another solid service game from the 9th seed consolidated the Nadal position at 4-1, and Zverev needed to rediscover his serving confidence immediately, or the set was gone.

He did and and held serve very well, but so did Nadal, after a worrying 30-30 moment,  and Zverev faced 2-5.
At deuce the German backhand volley was all class and his backhand down the line winner for the game even better.

Nadal serving for the set at 5-3.
A love game is the best way to do it and the match was all square at one set each.

Serve was held for the first nine games of the third set - the only time the server looked in trouble was in the third game when Zverev was taken to deuce three times.
Nadal served at 4-5 to stay in the set.  He managed then and also at 5-6 to force a tie break.

In a fabulous tiebreak where all the shots in the book appeared to be played, and need to have been played, Zverev came out on top, thanks to an aggressive backhand crosscourt winner at 6-5.
He led two sets to one.

After no break points in the third set for either player, Zverev was down three of them in the second game of the fourth, and he saved all with excellent work.
However a fourth snuck under his guard and Nadal broke to lead 2-0, a lead he maintained all set long, clinching it 6-3 and ensuring we would need five to decide a winner.  A late finish indeed and the night session a long way off yet.

Nadal broke Zverev in game one and seemed on track for victory, but surprised everyone by being broken back in the fourth game. 2-2

Then the fifth game provided some of the very best tennis of the match - it was long and riveting with both players constantly saving game and break points with wonderful shots, and the rallies were spectacular at times.
Sadly for Zverev he lost his serve at the end.

The seventh game was much the same and again Zverev dropped his serve when it was done.  Rafa led 5-2 but it could easily have been much different.

Serving for the match was less dramatic and Nadal won through to the round of sixteen 4-6 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-2

This was the best match I've seen so far at the Aus Open this year, and Zverev definitely has the game to be one of the next big names in tennis.

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