Rafael Nadal achieved his first Masters 1000 crown in Monte Carlo 2005 at 18. Twelve years later, the Spaniard celebrated his milestone 60th victory in the Principality following a convincing 6-1, 6-1 triumph over the young gun Alexander Zverev.
The German scored his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami and arranged the clash against the king of clay in Monte Carlo a few weeks later. Nadal was the only player on the court, defeating Zverev in 68 minutes and sailing into his 13th Monte Carlo quarter-final.
Rafa needed only 64 matches to deliver his 60th Monte Carlo win, a testimony of his dominance at one of his beloved events. Nadal had to dig deep against Zverev in the previous two encounters. That was not the case in this one, as he controlled the pace from start to finish with a superb performance on serve and return.
Alexander could do nothing against Rafa as a birthday boy, making plenty of errors from both wings and never finding a good rhythm.
Rafael Nadal beat Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-1 in the 2017 Monte Carlo third round.
Zverev served at 67%, but it was a performance to forget outside nine service winners, getting broken five times in seven service games.
On the other hand, Nadal was rock solid behind the initial shot, dropping seven points in seven service games and never facing a break chance or deuce. It was a fast and fluid battle, with half of the points landing in the area with four shots or less.
Nadal built a healthy 28-18 advantage in those. The Spaniard had eight service winners, and, more importantly, his initial groundstrokes after serve or return were spot on. Zverev struggled to follow that pace and impose his strokes.
Like service winners, they had a similar number of winners from the field, with 11 for Rafa and nine for Alexander. Forehand was the primary weapon for both, but they notched a few winners with volleys, while backhand stayed silent as they hit just one each.
The unforced errors department was the one that drove Zverev away from any glimpse of a chance after spraying 30, 15 from a forehand and 11 from a backhand side. His groundstrokes were already among the best in the game, but nothing worked for him that day.
He could not find the rhythm or pace to drive Nadal out of his comfort zone or make him work harder in the exchanges. Rafa stayed on eight unforced errors, unchallenged in the rallies after keeping a ball in play and waiting for his opponent to make an error.
Zverev had nine forced mistakes, four more than Nadal. The German’s mistakes highlighted the entire match and spoiled a more entertaining battle and a quality clash everybody wanted to see. Like in those shortest points, Nadal had the authority in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots, taking 19 from 27 and securing eight out of 11 exchanges with nine to 12 strokes.
Interestingly, Alexander stayed in touch in the eight most extended points. However, it was far from enough to give him anything more than those two games against such a strong rival.