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Alexander Zverev is cautiously optimistic about his chances of beating Rafael Nadal on clay. With a 6-3, 7-6(3) win over Daniel Evens on Thursday, the German set up a blockbuster quarter-final against Nadal at the Mutua Madrid Open. Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head Series 5-2, but Zverev has won their past two matches (on indoor hard courts at the Rolex Paris Masters in 2020 and the Nitto ATP Finals in 2021).“I've beaten him the last few times that we've played but obviously beating him on a clay court is very different,” Zverev told ATPTour.com. “I've had some tough battles. I think also when you beat him a few times in a row it doesn't matter where it is he's going to be more motivated to beat you the next few times."Nadal and Zverev’s last clay-court meeting was the 2018 Rome final, which Nadal won in three sets. They have never faced off in Madrid, where Nadal has the home-court advantage but the high altitude favours Zverev’s big serve and aggressive game style. “There’s a higher bounce, and definitely the serve goes through the court quicker,” Zverev said. “Also the ball flies through the air much faster so you can play more aggressively here than you can play on other clay courts. But still, I think Rafa is the favourite anywhere he goes, that's not going to change.”The German, who won the title in Madrid in 2018, says Nadal's greatest strength on clay may be his movement. “He moves better on a clay court than he does on a hard court so it's not easy to hit winners against him,” Zverev said. “But I have to manage it tomorrow and I have to definitely [hit winners].”Zverev will be ready to bring his best against the best and he has certainly risen to the occasion before. While the World No. 6 has losing records against Nadal and Novak Djokovic, he has scored two wins against each of them, and he boasts a 4-3 winning record against Roger Federer. “I feel like when you play against [the Big 3] you play in the later stages of a tournament, you play at the biggest moments,” the 23-year-old Zverev said. “And I feel like you're playing at your best as well so you've got to play your best to have a chance. But I've also gotten killed by all of them a few times in my life so I hope tomorrow is not going to be a case like that.”Zverev enters the highly anticipated showdown on the heels of a composed win over an on-fire Evans. Zverev had to be patient while the Brit switched up his tactics in the second set. “He's a great player with a lot of things he can change,” Zverev said of Evans. “You saw it during the match when he all of a sudden starting serving-and-volleying. He has a great variety in his game which can cause a lot of problems to a lot of top guys.”Evans entered the week at a career-high FedEx ATP Tour Ranking of No. 26 after reaching the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo, complete with an upset of World No. 1 Djokovic.On Friday, Zverev will be seeking his first clay-court semi-final appearance at the Masters 1000 level since losing to Nadal in the Rome final in 2018.
Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday, but that was not his only victory of the day. Later in the evening the Spaniard was announced as the 2021 Laureus Sportsman of the Year.Nadal also claimed the prestigious award in 2011 and was a nominee in 2009, 2014, 2018 and 2020. The other nominees this year were Joshua Cheptegei, Armand Duplantis, Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James and Robert Lewandowski. The 2021 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year is....@RafaelNadal pic.twitter.com/Ubp0GdBz4X— Laureus (@LaureusSport) May 6, 2021“I want to say thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to the Laureus Academy. I have had some amazing competitors,” Nadal said. “The rest of the sportsmen probably deserve the trophy the same as me, but this was the year for me and I can’t be happier.“Winning the French Open and equalling the 20th Grand Slam of Roger Federer has been an unforgettable moment. It means a lot to equal my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It’s something very special after all the history we have had together on and off court.“The pandemic that we are facing is something unprecedented and I want to send a message of support to all the families that have suffered or lost somebody.”The Spaniard received a message of congratulations from WTA legend Martina Navratilova.“What can I say to you that hasn't been told to you by countless others? But, for me, watching you play, watching you compete for every point as if it is match point, your total and utter commitment to the sport, your professionalism is off the charts,” Navratilova said. “People will be writing books about you so that they can teach others to do what you have done so well for, now almost 20 years. So, I salute you, I respect you, I love watching you play and I hope you never quit so you can win, maybe 30 Roland Garros titles. Anyway, congratulations.”
Tennis - Nadal claimed the prestigious award for the second time, with the first coming in 2011
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British number one Dan Evans missed out on the Madrid Open quarter-finals after losing to German fifth seed Alexander Zverev in the last 16.