Fourth seed Rafael Nadal is looking to book a spot at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals. Awaiting the Spaniard is the dangerous and rising star Alexander Zverev of Germany, who is without a doubt in fine form. Zverev, only 18, is seeking his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal. The winner of this match will play the winner of John Isner and Kei Nishikori, and potentially a semifinal match with world number one Novak Djokovic.
Road to the 4th round
Zverev, currently ranked world number 58, has had three very good wins en route to this encounter with Nadal, both mentally and physically. In the first round, he faced Ivan Dodig where he rallied from a set and a break down to seal the win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Next for the German was Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, who received a first round bye having entered the tournament as the 23rd seed.
Zverev subsequently won the match 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 after recovering from a 0-2 0-40 deficit in the decisive set. A much more straightforward match in the 3rd round saw Zverev taking out the 16th seed Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-2, recording his second win over the Frenchman in one month.
Like Zverev, it hasn't been particularly plain sailing for Nadal. His first opponent was the veteran Gilles Muller. Having won four of their five matches Nadal started off strongly, breaking Muller's serve twice to give him the first set 6-2. However, the second set was all Muller who was able to attack and move forward more due to shorter balls from Nadal. Some brilliant lobs and net play saw him take the match in to a decider.
The third set was by far the most competitive and testing. As the wind continued to pick up, both players found it difficult to deal with the slices and high topspin balls but it was Nadal who came out on top, ending the match with a backhand passing shot to win 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. In the third round, Nadal faced his compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who shocked Nadal at the Australian Open in five grueling sets. Similar to his match against Muller Nadal started off the match in some style, breaking Verdasco's serve third to win the first set 6-0. In what was a very topsy turvy second set, Nadal avoided the upset, saving five set points to beat Verdasco 6-0, 7-6(9).
This is the first encounter between Nadal and Zverev. Throughout the tournament, Zverev's serving has been very efficient. So far, he has served 24 aces and his first serve percentage is approximately 61 percent out of those three matches. On average, he is winning 79 percent of points won behind his first serve. His height will allow him to deal with Nadal's high topspin balls comfortably and should be looking to attack the Nadal backhand. For Nadal, it's important to play with a lot of variety, including a change of pace, drop shots and slices to avoid giving the teenager any rhythm. He should be looking to attack Zverev's forehand, which is the more inconsistent and unreliable stroke.
Prediction: Zverev wins in three sets.