Rafael Nadal saw his dreams of a Parisian double, 21 years after Andre Agassi, fly away. Seed number 1 and logical favorite of this Rolex Paris Masters, he suffered the law on Saturday of an Alexander Zverev of the great days. Resplendent with confidence, the German logically dominated the Spaniard in two sets (6-4, 7-5) and 1h39 of play on the center court of the Accor Arena, curbing the opposing revolt in the middle of the second round. Author of a double in Cologne in recent weeks, he will try to win a third title in a row and a 13th consecutive victory against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday in the final.
The 8th attempt will therefore not have been the right one. In the absence of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and while he was not approaching this end of the season struck down by fatigue as in his previous attempts, Rafael Nadal had a great opportunity to conquer one of the last strongholds to resist him on the circuit. But on Saturday, the Mallorcan had to face the facts: it is no coincidence that he has “only” one indoor title on his record. On this surface, the sum of the adjustments he has to make compared to his original game is often too large, especially when he is facing a very confident player.
Zverev, a recital at the service
Alexander Zverev thus offered him an almost insurmountable challenge. Because it must be emphasized above all: the German played the almost perfect match, relying on two major weapons: his service (72% of first balls, 13 aces and a small double fault) and his ability to do advance the ball very quickly with disconcerting ease in the exchange. Precise on the restart, the German found a lot of length, forcing Nadal to shorten in the battle from the bottom. He wandered over his faceoffs for a set and a half (6-4, 3-1), offering no solution to his rival.
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So much so that this second semi-final could have ended with a very severe score. On five occasions, Zverev obtained double break points in the second set: a first at 3-1, then four more at 4-2 (including three consecutive at 0/40). But the Mallorcan refused to die, dismissing them one after the other with great courage and daring taking the direction of the net. And this perseverance has, as so many times in his career, ended up bearing fruit: for the first time in this semi-final, his opponent tensed up at the service and gave in under intense pressure, conceding three games. row (6-4, 4-5).
Nadal showed character, Zverev too
A year ago to the day, Zverev surely would not have recovered. But water has flowed under the bridges. In the head, the 7th player in the world is another man. And like the end of the match against Stan Wawrinka the day before in the quarter-finals, he kept a bluffing calm and quickly found his bearings. His great strikes, in particular his little gem of crossed backhand, again pierced the Spanish wall (37 winning shots against 17 at Nadal). And despite his frequent hesitation, he went to get his last break point at the net with a sumptuous low, cushioned volley that won.
His last game was in the image of the quiet strength that seems to inhabit the great “Sasha” at the moment: a display of power in the service and an unfailing strength in the exchange. In fact, Zverev won 9 of the game’s 13 more than 9-strike showdowns in the game, a statistic rare enough for a Nadal opponent to be reported. The “Taurus of Manacor” was quickly eclipsed, visibly very disappointed. Bercy decidedly persists in escaping him.