A collector of records and numbers, the moment Rafael Nadal puts his first foot on the Photo Italic center today, he will reach a special figure. There will be 500 games in his territory, the clay, and he will do it (not before 1:00 p.m., #Vamos) against an opponent who forces us to look up and take the subway: Reilly Opelka, the tallest tennis player on the circuit next to Croatian Ivo Karlovic, fires cannon shots from his 2.11 height. After dodging two tough stakes with Yannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov, the Spaniard surrendered Alexander Zverev in another highly demanding crossing (6-3 and 6-4) and faces the American giant for a place in the final in Rome. I mean, it’s your turn to be brave again.
“It is very difficult to make a break. He is a very complicated player, because he gives you very few options for the rest and has a lot of security with the serve; that allows him to play calmly and aggressively, and the results he is doing show it ”, he warned on Friday, the day the Spaniard took a leap from the game and knocked down Zverev in two hours, with solidity and a more recognizable game. “I have done many things well, it has been a fairly complete match,” he valued; “What is the base, I have done very well. It is important for my confidence, both at the level of play and body, ”continued the Manacor, increasingly close to the level that multiplies him in the sand.
At a glance, the records are overwhelming. This Saturday he reaches half a thousand appointments on his fetish surface, where he governs and exercises without comparison: 457 victories, for only 42 defeats; Ivan Lendl follows him by far, with an 81% effectiveness (329/406). According to data provided by the Opta company, the Balearic has won 91.1% of his commitments since he celebrated his first victory in an ATP tournament in Mallorca, in 2002, and has celebrated 70.1% of his titles, 61 of 87. The same company reports that it has achieved at least one clay court title in the last 18 years (2004-2021), something that no other player has achieved in the Open Era.
Alicante’s David Ferrer has been the opponent who has beaten the most times –20, followed by Novak Djokovic (18) and Roger Federer (14) – and Nole is the one who has beaten him the most times (7). The German Zverev did it only once, last week in Madrid, and in the quarterfinals of Rome he offered commendable resistance in a pulse that included a scare, when the 20-grand champion went to hunt a drop and was nailed the left foot in a badly arranged line, rolling badly.
“I have some injuries and I have also hit my wrist, so at first I was a little scared, but after a few seconds I realized that it was only the pain of the blows and there was nothing else”, he reassured, satisfied because his evolutionary trajectory is upward and his body is offering guarantees in a tournament in which they compete at forced marches.
“After a game like yesterday [contra Shapovalov]To be able to go out on the track and compete well, feeling fast, maybe faster and more resistant, is a big step ”, he stressed. In the three Roman confrontations, Nadal has invested 7h 38m. As you accumulate filming, your performance improves and brings you closer to the version you need to storm Roland Garros. “After the final with Tsitsipas [en Barcelona] I spent almost two days in the infirmary, and from yesterday to today, I have recovered well. I have been working well these last few months. I lack a bit of that spark, but today I have been close to that peak ”, he describes.
“I have defended myself and I have moved better, I have been able to anticipate the ball more and I have read the game much better than other days. That is very important to me ”, he concluded after one of his best performances of the course, before a different test against Opelka. The 23-year-old American, 47th in the world, is a back and forth punch who will abbreviate and not give him rhythm. In his personal booklet there are two titles, both in rapid (New York 2019 and Delray Beach 2020), and this week he reached his peak in a Masters 1000. Big man, of North American mold, has been able to knock down tennis players of the stature of Medvedev, Bautista or Berrettini.