Alexander Zverev produced an impressive performance to beat Dominic Thiem in straight sets on Saturday and secure his place for the Madrid Open final, where he will face Matteo Berrettini.
Fifth seed Zverev, who surprised five-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals on Friday, beat Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in a repeat of the 2018 final, which was also won by the German.
“It’s going to mean a lot to me (if I can win the final), I’m really looking forward to it,” said Zverev, 24, trying to win the title without losing a set, as he did three. years ago.
Thiem threatened a late retaliation after trailing 4-1 in the second set, but had too much to do to reach a third Madrid final.
The third seed from Austria will now look to Rome next week and then the French Open which kicks off later this month, where he is also a two-time finalist.
The tournament saw a welcome return to form for world number six Zverev, who had won just two matches in his previous three events since lifting the title from Acapulco in March.
It was Zverev and Thiem’s first meeting since the latter’s dramatic triumph in the 2020 US Open final, when he came back from two sets to win in a decisive tie-break.
“We had some fantastic matches,” added Zverev, who still trails Thiem in their 8-3 head-to-head. “We have played the biggest matches in the world.
“We played in the Masters 1000 finals, we played in the Grand Slam finals and (the rivalry) is still growing.
“It will go on for a few more years. I hope we will play some more amazing games. “
Zverev started strong at Caja Magica, saving a break point to lead 2-1 before breaking in the next game on the fourth opportunity.
He lost just three more points on serve as he finished the first set comfortably, before putting pressure on Thiem at the start of the second.
World number four Thiem lost his serve twice in the first five games to put Zverev on the brink of victory.
He managed to recover one of the breaks and then maintained his serve in a marathon match to reduce the deficit to 4-3.
But Zverev was not to be turned down and a perfectly timed ace kept him in the lead before clinching a final place on his second match point.
Berrettini, ranked 10th in the world, beat Ruud 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final.
Zverev will be favorites in Sunday’s final, but Berrettini won the Serbian Open title in Belgrade last month and won 16 of his 19 matches this year.
Berrettini also won his last clay court match against Zverev in Rome in 2019, although the German came out on top in his last hard encounter in Shanghai, winning in straight sets.
Ruud, 22, reached the semi-finals in Monte Carlo last month, but two breaks, one in each set, were enough for Berrettini to seal the victory over the Norwegian in an hour and 21 minutes.
© 2021 AFP