PARIS: Alexander Zverev overpowered Rafael Nadal in straight sets on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to reach his first Paris Masters final, where he will face third seed Daniil Medvedev.
The German claimed his second successive win over Nadal in impressive fashion, easing to a 6-4, 7-5 victory after Medvedev’s earlier 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over Milos Raonic.
It ended Nadal’s hopes of a first title at Bercy Arena and the 20-time Grand Slam champion remains with only one tournament win on indoor hard courts in his career.
The 34-year-old will now prepare to challenge for a maiden ATP Tour Finals trophy in London, with the season-ending event starting on November 15.
“I was there until the end against a player who is playing great on a surface that he’s winning a lot (on),” said Nadal. “So it has been a positive tournament for me.”
Zverev will be confident of claiming a third successive title, after back-to-back triumphs on home soil in Cologne, when he takes on Medvedev in Sunday’s final.
The fourth seed holds a 5-1 winning record over the Russian.
“The head-to-head is one thing, but in a final it’s always different,” said Zverev, who lost to Medvedev in last year’s Shanghai Masters final.
Nadal had been looking to equal Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 Masters crowns this week.
Instead, Zverev is just one win from a fourth Masters success but first since the 2018 Madrid Open.
He served brilliantly in the opening set, with just a single break of Nadal’s serve in the third game enough to take it in just 38 minutes.
Zverev struggled for long periods of last season with double faults, but has put that problem behind him since the return from the coronavirus-enforced suspension of professional tennis.
Four big first serves helped the German clinch the one-set lead.
“It was no secret, I was double faulting quite a lot. So it was important for me to work on that,” he said.
Zverev again moved into an early lead in the second, but paid the price for missing four break points for a 5-2 advantage as a poor service game then handed Nadal a second chance.
But he managed to refocus, breaking his illustrious opponent again in the 11th game before sealing victory on his second match point when Nadal fired wide.
Medvedev edges out Raonic
Medvedev battled past Raonic earlier on Saturday to reach his first final of the season.
The Russian secured his third victory from as many meetings with the Canadian.
The 24-year-old Medvedev, who won both the Cincinnati and Shanghai Masters last year, is looking for his eighth career title.
“The first set was great, I think he maybe only won one or two points on my serve,” he said. “Second set was tougher, I had to save some break points. Really happy to be through in the final.”
All seven of his previous tournament successes have also come on hard courts.
“I always take it 50/50. There are two players, only one can win. It’s never easy,” insisted Medvedev despite his poor record against Zverev.
The world number five took a tight opening set by a single break as both men served strongly, dropping just four points on first serves between them.
The drama came at the end of the second set as, after Raonic missed three break points for a 5-3 lead, he was broken himself in the 11th game.
But Medvedev failed to serve out the match as Raonic forced a tie-break.
Medvedev powered into a 4-0 lead in the breaker, only for former Wimbledon runner-up Raonic to peg him back to 5-4, but he secured a final spot on his first match point with a smash into the open court.