French Open 2022 Semi-Final: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev preview
- Nadal and Zverev go toe-to-toe in the French Open semi-final
- The Spaniard leads the German 6-3 on head-to-head
- Nadal starts as favourites against the third-seeded German
The first French Open semi-final brings together German Alexander Zverev against Spanish legend Rafael Nadal. In a tie heavily stacked against Zverev, the third seed will need to be near flawless against the always imperious Nadal. His run to the semis comes on the back of some encouraging performances, most notably his quarter-final duel against Spanish upstart Carlos Alcaraz. After steaming to a two-set led, he would be hauled back in the third before edging a see-saw tiebreak 9-7 in the fourth. However, going mano-a-mano with Nadal in Roland Garros is a different prospect altogether. The southpaw lords over the Paris clay with authority rarely seen before. His 13 French Opens speak a story of their own, but the devilry lies in his immaculate sense of the surface and his innate knack for finding his best when required.
Nadal, for his part, has needed to plumb the depths of his vast clay-court know-how en route to the semis. Suffering from a chronic foot injury, the Spaniard has often had to pare down his physical style for something more economical. In what might be his last French Open, he was pushed to the brink by Canadian Auger-Aliassime in a fourth-round five-set dust-up. While his standards had fallen ever so slightly against Aliassime, the same cannot be said for his quarter-final showdown against old-foe Novak Djokovic. In four sets of riveting tennis, the Spaniard's racquet sung from the off. Racing to a 6-2 first set win, he began the second set with the vim of his younger self before Novak drew parity with some dogged tennis of his own. Unperturbed, the record Grand Slam winner was all over Djokovic like a rash in the third, winning it 6-2. Nerves would peak in the fourth, as the Serb squandered a 2-5 lead to find himself in a tiebreak against an increasingly clinical Rafa. It would end badly for Novak as Nadal found his rage, eventually easing to a 7-4 win in the tiebreaker.
In Zverev, the old schemer faces a hungry opponent, hunting for his first Grand Slam. While the odds stack up against the third-seeded German, he has the arsenal to unsettle Nadal. However, Zverev is often erratic and tends to fade as the intensity rises. Even against Alcaraz, he produced fewer winners than his opponent. While his service game is always an asset, he'll need to be tighter on his second serve to stand a chance against Nadal. Expect Rafa to push for longer rallies, another area of weakness for the German.
On head-to-head, Nadal leads the German 6-3, winning their most recent encounter in the Rome Masters. Having played five times on clay, the Spaniard leads Zverev 4-1 on the surface. The solitary defeat came on the bouncier clay at Madrid in 2021, but it is a memory that will drive the young German in tonight's encounter.