By Jake Davies

  • Rafael Nadal [1] vs Alexander Zverev [2]
ROME, ITALY – Rafael Nadal moved ever closer to an eighth Rome title as he beat old foe Novak Djokovic to set up a mouthwatering match-up against Rome defending champion Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final.

 

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Rafael Nadal [1] vs Alexander Zverev [2] H2H: Nadal leads 3-0

Rafael Nadal has returned to winning ways after a short, momentary blip in the Madrid Masters, where he succumbed to Dominic Thiem in the quarter-final. This week, Nadal has been striking the ball very well and has come through some stern tests, with wins over Damir Dzumhur, where he lost the one game, Denis Shapovalov, Fabio Fognini and then the most impressive win came against former World No.1 Novak Djokovic, who is making a return to action after elbow surgery.

In Sunday’s final, he faces Alexander Zverev, who tasted Masters success for the first time when he claimed the Rome title last season and he is riding a wave of momentum at the moment following wins in Munich and Madrid. The 21-year-old is on a thirteen match win-streak and during that stunning run he has beaten Thiem in the Madrid final and beat British No.1 Kyle Edmund in the third round of Rome.

Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open, 2018

Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open, 2018 | JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

The German No.1 has openly talked about battling with ongoing fatigue during his many wins in Madrid and Rome and faces a very tough physical and mental challenge ahead if he is to get the better of Nadal, who is chasing down an eighth title at the Foro Italico.

The question really is how much will Zverev have recovered in between his semi-final win against Marin Cilic and the beginning of the big final, because he will need to be at one hundred percent to stand a fair shot at causing the upset and defending his title. He will definitely need a positive start to the match. Zverev has shown during his outstanding winning run that he has made gigantic strides from a mental standpoint and has learned how to win matches without playing his best tennis, but going down an early break to the Spaniard will be a tough deficit to claw back as Nadal is usually very strong at being a front runner in matches.

I think Nadal will most likely win this match fairly comfortably. Although Zverev has an aggressive brand of tennis, he does have a tendency to retreat in his court position in matches and in doing that against Nadal he is just handing the initiative in the rally. Zverev has to be ultra aggressive to stand any chance of beating Nadal.

This match should be a very telling dress rehearsal of what to anticipate in the upcoming French Open. If Zverev puts up a respectable challenge then he puts himself forward as a credible contender, while Nadal will be trying to ensure that he maintains the mental edge that he has over the rest of the field. In addition to this, a win for Nadal puts him back at the top of the ATP rankings.

Prediction: Nadal in a one-sided straight sets win.

Nadal and Zverev are scheduled on Campo Centrale, not before 4pm (3pm BST).

 

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