Thiem, Zverev Prepared For Second Madrid Showdown

After earning his first victory on clay against Rafael Nadal in straight sets on Friday, Alexander Zverev will face another member of the ATP Tour’s clay-court elite in the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals: Dominic Thiem.

The World No. 6 owns a 2-8 ATP Head2Head record against the Austrian and has lost the pair’s four most recent encounters, including a heart-breaking fifth-set tie-break defeat in last year’s US Open final. Thiem also holds a 4-1 advantage on clay, but that lone defeat is key.

Three years ago, Zverev completed a dominant week in Madrid with a 6-4, 6-4 final victory against Thiem to win his third ATP Masters 1000 title. Memories of that victory, and the pair’s instant classic in the 2020 US Open final, mean Zverev will walk onto Manolo Santana Stadium on Saturday with all the belief and motivation he will need to reach a second Madrid final.

“I know that I can do it [against Dominic],” Zverev said. “Everyone remembers the US Open final that we played. I remember it certainly and it is still going to be in the back of my mind when we play tomorrow. I am looking forward to the match.”

Making his first appearance on the ATP Tour since the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in March, Thiem has made it through to his fourth straight semi-final in Madrid. The two-time Madrid runner-up, who owns a 16-4 record in the Spanish capital, entered the tournament eager to test his game. With wins against Marcos Giron, Alex de Minaur and John Isner en route to the final four, Thiem has already surpassed his pre-tournament expectations.

“I was just expecting to hopefully play one or two good matches here against top opponents. Now I'm in the semi-finals and facing Sascha tomorrow. That's amazingly good to get at least four matches [at the] top level, but it's also a big surprise for me. [I] definitely didn't expect that.”

In the second semi-final, two under-the-radar runs will take centre stage at Manolo Santana Stadium as eighth seed Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud clash for the fourth time. Before this week, neither player had played a main draw match in Madrid; now, they are fighting for a spot into their maiden ATP Masters 1000 final.

The resurgent Berrettini has quietly built up a 15-3 record on the season, despite a lengthy injury break to recover from an abdominal strain. He claimed his fourth ATP Tour title at the Serbia Open in Belgrade, and powered into the Madrid semi-finals after defeating countryman Fabio Fognini in his opening match.

“There were days where I wasn't really feeling into practice because I felt like there was a lot of work to be done,” Berrettini said. “Sometimes I was feeling kind of unlucky that I got injured again. It was just tough. But then I came back stronger in Belgrade. For here, I proved to myself that I'm strong inside.”

His unseeded opponent, Ruud, is also having a debut to remember in the Spanish capital. Ruud sealed his third consecutive clay-court ATP Masters 1000 semi-final appearance after saving the only break point he has faced all week against Alexander Bublik, and took down fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime along the way.

Madrid marks the Norwegian’s 11th tour-level semi-final – all 11 have come on the red dirt.

“It still feels like I'm very new to this level, making the [late] stages at this level,” Ruud said. “I think now I've proven also to myself that it's just not a one-hit-wonder when I did my first [Masters 1000 semi-final] in Rome and the second one in Monte-Carlo. It felt even more like it was a new feeling. This is the third time. I feel more confident in myself. Knowing that I've been there twice before I think will hopefully help tomorrow.”

Ruud will take a 2-1 lead in ATP Head2Head into his matchup against Berrettini, with both wins coming on clay. The defeat that stings the most for Berrettini is the Norwegian’s victory on his home turf at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where Ruud won 7-6 in the third to reach the semi-finals.

“We always had tough matches. Last year in Rome was [a] really tricky match,” Berrettini recalled. “Still if I think about it, it hurts. I'm really looking forward to getting my revenge, not in a bad way, but just in a way that's in a sports way.”



WTA - [3] G. Dabrowski (CAN) / D. Schuurs (NED) vs [2] B. Krejcikova (CZE) / K. Siniakova (CZE)

Not Before 4:00 pm
[5] A. Zverev (GER) vs [3] D. Thiem (AUT)

Not Before 6:30pm
WTA - [1] A. Barty (AUS) vs [5] A. Sabalenka (BLR)

Not Before 9:00pm
C. Ruud (NOR) vs [8] M. Berrettini (ITA)

S. Gille (BEL) / J. Vliegen (BEL) vs [2] N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)

After Suitable Rest
T. Puetz (GER) / A. Zverev (GER) vs [3] M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG)

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Berrettini Bests Garin To Reach Madrid Semi-finals

Eighth seed Matteo Berrettini rallied from a set down against Cristian Garin on Friday to grab the last semi-final berth at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Coming into the Spanish capital, Berrettini was regaining his rhythm after needing a lengthy break to recover from an abdominal injury. The Italian was quickly back to his winning ways, lifting his fourth ATP Tour trophy at the Serbia Open in Belgrade.

The World No. 10 is now on a seven-match win streak after taking down the 16th seeded Garin 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 in his Manolo Santana Stadium debut, and improved to 15-3 on the season.

"I'm really proud that I came from not an easy place mentally after my injury," Berrettini said in his post-match press conference. "I really worked hard. There were days where I wasn't really feeling into practice because I felt like kind of there was a lot of work to be done. Sometimes I was feeling kind of unlucky that I got injured again. It was just tough.

"But then I came back stronger in Belgrade. For here, I proved to myself that I'm strong inside."

Berrettini will next face Norway’s Casper Ruud in the semi-finals. Before this week, neither player had played a main draw match in Madrid; now, they are fighting for a spot into their maiden ATP Masters 1000 final on Sunday.

"I think he's a great, great player, especially on clay," Berrettini said. "He's been playing really good, really solid so far this season. We always had, like, tough matches.

"Last year in Rome was really tricky match. Still if I think about it, it hurts. I'm really looking forward to get my revenge, not in a bad way, but just in a way that's in a sports way."

Garin came out firing against Berrettini, high on confidence after equaling the biggest win of his career against World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in the previous round (also No. 3 Zverev, 2019 Munich). His speed around the court kept Berrettini on the back foot, and Garin powered his way to early break leads in the first two sets.


The Italian looked to be in danger after going down a set and 3-1 to Garin, but the eighth seed raised his level emphatically in the second set to level at 3-3. Garin couldn’t come up with answers for his opponent's powerful surge as Berrettini reeled off the last 11 games in a row.

Berrettini fired his 14th ace to seal the victory after two hours and six minutes, booking a place into his second Masters 1000 semi-final and the first since Shanghai in 2019. Berrettini recorded 33 winners to Garin’s 18, and kept his unforced error count to a tidy 21 (30 for Garin).

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Nadal Makes 95-Year-Old Manuela’s Dream Come True

Early this morning, Rafael Nadal received a very special message. Before playing in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open, the Spaniard read some heartfelt words on social media. Among his 15 million followers on Twitter, somebody’s message stood out over the rest.

“Today, my grandmother, at 95 years of age, will fulfil her dream of seeing you live,” wrote Carlos Carrizosa, the grandson of the protagonist of this wonderful story. “She is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and she told me that before she forgets what tennis and you mean to her, she wanted to see you live. I hope that she enjoys this day as much as I’m enjoying it.”

Carrizosa’s grandmother, Manuela Navarro Esteban, was hugely excited as they made their way to the Caja Mágica on Friday. There, they were able to see the winner of 87 ATP Tour titles and one of the legends of modern sport in the flesh in Madrid.


— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 7, 2021

But Carlos and Manuela could not have imagined how much more they would enjoy their day, all thanks to the power of social media.

At 3pm, Manuela was in one of the seats in the Manolo Santana Stadium taking in the intense atmosphere. Just a few metres from the court, Manuela got to enjoy the power of the Mallorcan close up. Although Rafa ultimately did not reach the semi-finals, the support from one of his biggest fans was just as strong as it has been for his greatest victories.

Despite being unable to celebrate a victory for her favourite player, who was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the German Alexander Zverev, Manuela was able to enjoy a special moment with the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

Manuela ha podido cumplir el sueño de su vida 🧡

¡Gracias, Rafa! 😘@RafaelNadal | #MMOPEN

— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 7, 2021

At the end of the match, having been knocked out of the ATP Masters 1000 event, the Spaniard was delighted to meet Manuela, who was patiently waiting at the exit to the locker rooms. Behind the scenes in the Caja Magica, minutes after competing in front of all the fans, Nadal dedicated some of his time to one of his biggest fans.

They shared a conversation in which they were able to exchange words of affection. Nadal met one of his most fervent supporters, contemplating what he represents to so many generations of fans. And Manuela, simply delighted to see him play live, then had the pleasure of meeting him face to face.

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Ruud Moves Into Madrid Semi-Finals Over Bublik

Casper Ruud eased past Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-1 to move into the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals on Friday.

"It's a great feeling, it’s my third Masters 1000 semi-final, third in a row on clay," Ruud said on court. "I’m just playing the tennis of my life for the moment and I'm enjoying it."

In a tight first set Ruud broke Bublik at 6-5 by capatilising on his fourth set point. Ruud would then run away with the match in just 69 minutes. He's into his third ATP Masters 1000 clay-court semi-final (Rome and Monte-Carlo).

In addition to three consecutive clay-court Masters 1000s semi-finals on clay dating back to Rome last year, Ruud has now reached three semi-finals from his past three outings (Monte-Carlo, Munich and Madrid).

"I’ve just had an unbelievable motivation to play the European clay swing and when we didn’t get to play it last year, I was very sad," Ruud said. "So I think I just have double motivation compared to last year."


Ruud becomes the seventh unseeded ATP player to reach the semi-finals in Madrid and will be aiming to become the first to make a final when he takes on the winner of Matteo Berrettini and Cristian Garin on Saturday.

He improves to 2-0 in his ATP Head2Head Series against Bublik. The Kazakh hit 23 winners to Ruud’s 19, but Ruud missed far less, giving up just four unforced errors to Bublik’s 21.

Bublik tried to mix things up by serving-and-volleying and Ruud responded by forcing net errors and consistently making passing shots. With Bublik taking big risks, Ruud was able to stay patient and make the most of his chances. Ruud has yet to be broken and faced his first break point this week in the first set against Bublik.

On Thursday, Ruud scored the biggest win of his career by upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas for his first Top 5 win. He started his campaign in Madrid with a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 22 and is guaranteed to crack the Top 20 next week.

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How ‘The Outlook Of The Match Changed’ For Nadal Against Zverev

Top seed Rafael Nadal was left ruing his missed opportunities after bowing out of the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals to an on-song Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The World No. 2 led Zverev 4-2 in the first set, but the German broke straight back after a spate of uncharacteristic errors from Nadal. The Spaniard then had a break chance at 4-3, but flubbed a forehand to give his opponent a lifeline back into the set.

From there, Nadal said, the match completely turned. The 2018 champion Zverev rallied to win 6-4, 6-4 and book a place into the semi-finals.

“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,” Nadal admitted in his post-match press conference. “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 is very difficult to understand, especially for me.  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.”

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.

“I felt like I was playing better for much of the first set, but after a couple of errors – unjustifiable errors at the worst times – I found myself down a set,” Nadal said. “The outlook of the match changed there, both for me and for him. I knew then that a lot of suffering was waiting for me [in the second set], and for him, the knowledge that he just took a huge step forward during the match.”

The five-time Madrid champion was quick to give his opponent credit for putting him in uncomfortable situations throughout the match. Zverev claimed his third consecutive victory over Nadal, and the first on clay, to improve his ATP Head2Head record to 3-5.


According to Nadal, part of what makes the World No. 6 such a tough opponent to face is his huge serve. Zverev’s average first serve speed was 25 kph faster than Nadal’s (217 kph to 192) on Friday and bounced much higher in Madrid’s high altitude.

“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,” Nadal 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.”

After a bad day at the office on his home turf, Nadal was eager to look ahead to the rest of the clay season as he prepares for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and Roland Garros. He is aiming to add a 10th title at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, and extend his record haul in Paris to 14 titles. Victory in Paris would also put Nadal at the top of the all-time Grand Slam winners list with 21 major crowns.

“Where the clay season stands is very simple: quarters, champion and quarters. And now comes Rome,” Nadal assessed. “That's all there is. I’ve been able to reach quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo, win in Barcelona and reach quarter-finals here, and I feel like I’ve been moving forward.

“We’ll see what happens in Rome. For me, the objective before Roland-Garros is to go to Rome and win it. That’s the truth.”

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Puetz & Zverev Reach Madrid SFs

Alexander Zverev had a winning day on Friday at the Mutua Madrid Open. After taking out Rafael Nadal in the singles quarter-finals, he took to the court with compatriot Tim Puetz to beat Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 3-6, 10-5 for a spot in the doubles semi-finals.

On Saturday, Zverev will first take on Dominic Thiem and then he and Puetz will face third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos. Granollers and Zeballos took out the French tandem of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 7-6(3), 6-2.

Second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic advanced with a tight 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-7 win over seventh seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot. Mektic and Pavic are seeking their sixth title of 2021, and third ATP Masters 1000 crown after winning Miami and Monte-Carlo.

The Croatian pair will play Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen after the Germans upset fourth seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 6-3, 3-6, 10-5. Gille and Vliegen just reached the Munich final last week and won in Singapore earlier this season for their fifth ATP Tour crown together.

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