Rafael Nadal tidied up a blemish on his recent record by ending a three-match loss streak to Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 on Friday to take his accustomed place in the Rome Masters semi-finals.
Spain’s second-seeded nine-time winner at the Foro Italico last defeated weekend Madrid champion Zverev in the final here three years ago – at the time denying the German a second straight Rome title.
Zverev had the last laugh a week ago in the Madrid quarters with his straight-sets win.
Nadal moved into the final four in the capital for a 12th time as he won in two hours and saved nine of 10 break points against his serve. he led 4-0 in the opening set but had to battle as Zverev struck back.
Nadal emerged unscathed if dirtied in the ninth game of the first st after taking a 360-degree rolling tumble as he tried for a Zverev return near the net.
The veteran showed no effects after playing for three and a half hours a day earlier to defeat Denis Shapovalov.
“When you fight you get something back, that’s what I did,” Nadal said. “I suffered a lot yesterday but that win gave me a chance to be on court today.
“I played much better than yesterday – this was my most solid clay match this season; it’s a great victory for me.
“I’ve lost some important points under pressure the last few weeks. Today I was able to manage, It was a good day for me.”
The top seed will aim for the final on Saturday, taking on the winner from Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who beat Dominic Thiem on Thursday, and Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev.
Two-metre tall American servebot Reilly Opelka booked an unaccustomed place in a clay semi-final after defeating Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-5, 7-6(2).
The winner produced 18 aces and saved all four break points he faced to earn a career-first Masters semi-final.
Opelka is making his Rome debut and came into the week on a six-match losing streak.
“I am surprised. Clay is not really my thing,” Opelka said.
“It’s probably just a fluke, but I’ll run with it,” said the player who has not dropped serve all week nor lost a set and has sent down 77 aces.
“I definitely served well. I hit my spots really well today, especially in big moments,” Opelka said. “I think that has been critical. I have stayed calm on big points.”