Rafael Nadal pulled off a vintage performance to win against a player who has been touted as a future world number 1 and a multiple grand slam winner. Visibly cramping in the fifth set, Zverev was outlasted by the fitter, more experienced Nadal who used tactics and variation to counter the young player’s huge serve and heavy ground strokes, typical of Nadal’s excellent problem-solving ability in tight tennis matches.
 
Match Statistics

Alexander Zverev, the future

Born on the 20th of April 1997, ‘Sascha’ Zverev comes from a tennis family. His parents were tennis players and so is his older brother, Mischa, 29. Mischa is in fact through to the fourth round to face Andy Murray on the opposite side of the draw, his best result at a slam. Sascha followed his brother around the tour as a child and practiced with pro players at ever chance he got. He won the Australian Open Junior Championships in 2014.

Last year, Zverev won his first ATP title in St. Petersburg, where he beat three-slam winner Stan Wawrinka.

 
Nadal vs Zverev – The Lost Match Point

Last year at Indian Wells, a then 18-year-old Zverev had match point against Rafael Nadal but missed an easy volley due to nerves and inexperience. Nadal then proceeded to win the next few games to seal the victory for himself. After the match, players saw Zverev spend a long time in the car park of the tournament, shocked and trying to process his loss.

This no doubt was on his mind today as he fought hard against the veteran Spaniard.

A good start to the year for Nadal

This is a very important win for Nadal, 30, on many fronts. This is the first five-set match he has won in 2 years. He won today after losing the first set, the first time he has done so in six such matches. He also served at 75% first serves in, a level higher than his yearly average. He had only 7 break points on his serve for the whole match, only two of which were converted by Zverev.

He is now through to the round of 16, his 10th such showing at the Australian Open. He won the Australian Open once in 2009, the first grand slam he won on a hard court and his 6th overall. Nadal has not made it to the quarterfinals of a slam in almost 2 years and last won a grand slam at the French Open in 2014.

He next must face 7th seed Gael Monfils (H2H 12-2 in Nadal’s favor), and then, if he wins, big-serving Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, who Nadal lost his last match to in Brisbane.

The recent addition of Carlos Moya to Nadal’s coaching team seems to have been reaping some benefits. Recently Moya said about Nadal: “I wanted to see how eager Rafa was to be back at the top. He proved to me he will do all in his power.’

Federer also looking good

On the other side of the draw, another veteran, Roger Federer, is also playing really well. Yesterday he dispatched world no. 10 Tomas Berdych in a one-sided match in just over an hour. He faces Kei Nishikori next.

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