Alexander Zverev insists he’s relishing a “tough battle” against Rafael Nadal, though admits his Italian Open showdown will be very different to the conditions in which he defeated the Spaniard in Madrid. Zverev beat Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday.
The German went on to win the Madrid Open after beating Matteo Berrettini in the final, having defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-finals in the Spanish capital.
The duo go head-to-head again in the last eight at Foro Italico on Friday (11am UK time) with Nadal looking to get revenge on the world No 6 in his 97th career Masters 1000 quarter-final.
The ‘King of Clay’ has endured a disappointing season on the red dirt thus far, losing to Andrey Rublev in the Monte Carlo Masters quarters and going down to Zverev in Madrid at the same stage.
Nadal did win the Barcelona Open but only once, discounting the coronavirus-affected 2020 season in which many tournaments were cancelled, in his career has gone on to the French Open without winning a Masters 1000 title beforehand.
That was in 2015, the last year in which he failed to win at Roland Garros when he lost to Novak Djokovic, again in the final eight.
And as nine-time Rome champion Nadal looks to get revenge on Zverev in Italy, the sixth seed is looking forward to their latest battle having won all of the previous three.
“I think there’s a big difference [in the conditions]. I also think there’s also a difference in our physical state,” Zverev admitted after beating Nishikori.
“I think last week and now this match for me is going to come together tomorrow, but I’m going to give it my best.
“At the end of the day, he’s one of the biggest competitors in the world and I’m going to try to be one myself tomorrow.
“I enjoy playing against the best players in the world. That’s what you’re here for. That’s what you play tennis for.
“You want to be the best and you want to play against the best. It’s going to be a tough challenge, it’s going to be a tough battle, but I’m also looking forward to it.”
“[It] is an important victory for me [to] be able to win matches like today, three hours and 27 [minutes], in the Barcelona final three hours and 38 [minutes], long matches.
“To be able to win these kinds of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body. It’s true that I have to do things better for tomorrow.
“But the main thing today for me is [to] recover physically. This has been a positive victory for me.
“I [fought] until the end a lot to be in quarter-finals. Tomorrow is a chance to play a quarter-final match. I hope to be ready to compete well.”
Nadal is looking to win his 10th Italian Open this year though world No 1 Novak Djokovic is the defending champion.