Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev live streaming, preview and tips: Nadal must end Zverev’s 13-match winning streak to claim eighth Rome Masters title

Hannah Wilks in ATP 20 May 2018
  • Rafael Nadal faces defending champion Alexander Zverev in the final of the Rome Masters
  • Nadal vs Zverev Rome Masters tennis is live from Rome on Sunday at 4pm local/3pm BST
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 
Rafael Nadal (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal will have to end Alexander Zverev’s title defense and 13-match winning streak in Sunday’s final to claim an eighth Rome Masters title.

Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev Rome Masters tennis is streamed live from Rome on Sunday at 4pm local/3pm BST (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify). Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis

Defending Rome Masters champion Alexander Zverev has built a 13-match winning streak across the past three weeks of top-level clay-court tennis – but if one man is up to the task of ending that streak, it’s King of Clay Rafael Nadal as he bids for an eighth title at the Foro Italico.

It’s absurd at this point for anyone to think there are still questions for Nadal to answer on clay, but the ten-time French Open champion couldn’t really have made his way into the final in more convincing style. Already a champion in Barcelona and at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters this year, Nadal bounced back from a quarterfinal defeat to Dominic Thiem at the Madrid Masters and snapped a three-match losing streak in Rome quarterfinals when he came back from a set down against Fabio Fognini – who had eliminated Thiem earlier in the tournament – to reach the semifinals. Then he faced down the challenge of long-time rival Novak Djokovic – at one point his nemesis on all surfaces, including clay – in a gripping semifinal and emerged unscathed.

In what was their 51st meeting overall, but the first in over a year, Djokovic served notice (pun intended) that he is back to something like his old self after more or less two years of travails. His furious intensity, for so long misplaced in favour of a kind of wry fatalism, was back; less subjectively, he was hitting his backhand as well as ever, producing a couple of sharp backhand angles in the first set in particular as he tried to fend off Nadal’s attempts to secure an early break that were absolute pictures of Djokovic at his best. But what shouldn’t be lost in the excitement over seeing that was the fact that Nadal did break in that game, with an aggressive forehand return to set up break point and a series of pummeling backhands to secure it. The tennis Djokovic played on Saturday afternoon at the Foro Italico was good enough to beat anybody else on tour; it wasn’t even good enough to take a set from Nadal.

And Djokovic did have his chances, too. For the second match in a row, Nadal let a first-set lead slip and Djokovic came back from 2-5 to 5-5 and eventually pushed the first set to a tie break, even leading by an initial mini-break. But although Nadal’s forehand was not been quite its usual reliable self this season so far, it came to the rescue when he needed it most, with a mammoth injection of pace down the line at 4-5 to get the Djokovic defensive slice into the net and a point to take the first set – duly converted, much to Djokovic’s fury, when he wrapped a backhand return winner down the outside of the line.

Nadal would not repeat the mistakes of the first set in the second, breaking early and holding on to that break before going all out on Djokovic’s serve to secure a second break and with it, the match and a place in a tenth Rome Masters final, 7-6(4), 6-3. 

After all the thrills and anticipation of the Nadal-Djokovic semifinal – which delivered on its promise – the second semifinal between Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic was definitely the undercard, but it showed its share of intrigue as well as the defending champion joined Nadal in the final.

Alexander Zverev  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
It was a year ago at the Foro Italico when then-world no. 17 Zverev, still a next big thing, played his way through the field to a first Masters 1000 Series final – and won, beating Djokovic to claim the trophy. It might have seemed like a fluke – Zverev had come through quite a soft draw and caught an erratic Djokovic on an off day in the final – but events since have proven it wasn’t. Indeed, Zverev returned to Rome this year as a three-time Masters 1000 Series champion – that’s two more than any other player outside the Big Four of Roger Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray have ever managed to secure, including the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Andy Roddick, Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro.

Zverev’s Grand Slam record remains the big question mark hovering above this young player’s head, but honestly at this point, it might be the only one. Still just 21 in a sport still thoroughly dominated by ageing greats in their thirties, Zverev’s five-title 2017 which lifted him to world no. 3 left him with plenty to prove in 2018 – and so far he’s done splendidly, bouncing back from a sub-par start to the year by reaching a third Masters 1000 Series final in Miami (losing to John Isner), then following up a run to the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters semifinals by embarking on his current 13-match winning streak, first taking the title at the 250 in Munich, then beating Dominic Thiem to win the Madrid Masters and, in Rome, rising to the challenge of defending his title with wins over Kyle Edmund, David Goffin and finally Marin Cilic to make the final.

Given that he looked like he was running on fumes against Goffin in their late-night quarterfinal, one might have expected Zverev to go out tamely to Cilic, but the German simply had no intention of doing anything so craven. Zverev failed to convert four break points at times on Cilic’s serve in the first set, which duly went to a tie break, and when he took a 4-0 lead it seemed as if it was going to be pretty one-sided. Not so. The tie-breaker stretched to 28 points played in over 24 minutes, featured a fairly dramatic meltdown by Zverev about an umpire decision (followed by a racquet smash) and saw a bushel of break points saved by both before Zverev finally took the 72-minute set, leaning in on a backhand to get a defensive forehand error into the net. 
Cilic would break to open the second set, but Zverev – despite needing a medical time-out on his back/shoulder between sets – simply refused to be done, breaking back at 4-4 and closing out the 7-6(13), 7-5 victory to extend his winning streak to 13 matches.

This was, frankly, a match that Zverev shouldn’t really have won. A little like the Goffin encounter, he got through playing almost on instinct and buoyed by insane amounts of confidence. It doesn’t bode well for his chances in the final against Nadal.

Nor does the head-to-head between them. Zverev has lost all four matches he’s played against Nadal, and although he’s pushed the Spaniard the distance twice on hard courts, he hasn’t managed to take a set in two meetings on clay, losing 1-6, 1-6 at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters last year and 1-6, 4-6, 4-6 during the Davis Cup tie between Spain and Germany a few weeks ago. Zverev has been running on fumes for the past couple of matches, and he’s up against the best that tennis has ever seen on this surface, playing some pretty good tennis – albeit not quite his best. You don’t beat Nadal without the physical reserves, not on clay, no matter how much confidence you have. Nadal is going to win the Rome Masters for an eighth time, and it looks likely he’ll do it in extremely dominant style.

Nadal vs Zverev Rome Masters tennis is live from Rome on Sunday at 5pm local/4pm BST. Watch and bet on the match live at bet365 > live streaming > tennis > Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 

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Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev live streaming, preview and tips: Nadal must end Zverev’s 13-match winning streak to claim eighth Rome Masters title

Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev live streaming, preview and tips for the ATP Rome Masters final match on Sunday 20 May 2018: Defending champion Zverev has never taken a set from Nadal and looks unlikely to in the Rome Masters final. We preview the match and show you how you can watch the match live and bet in-play.

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