PARIS — Alexander Zverev advanced to the Paris Masters final for the first time by beating top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday, denying Nadal the chance to win a tournament that continues to elude him.
The fourth-seeded Zverev faces No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final, and leads him 5-1 in career meetings.
Nadal has won 86 titles, including a record-equaling 20 Grand Slams and 35 Masters events, but lost his only final here in 2007 to David Nalbandian.
Serving for the match at an empty Bercy Arena because of the coronavirus pandemic, the imposing Zverev opened with his 13th ace.
He double-faulted on his first match point at 40-0. But on the next one, Nadal’s forehand down the line went wide to give the 23-year-old German only his second win in seven matches against the Spanish veteran.
Nadal was broken to love in the third game and dropped the opening set for the third time in his four matches. Zverev won 78% of points on first serve compared to 60% for Nadal and led 9-1 in aces in that set. He clinched it with a sliced shot at the net which Nadal could not reach.
“He’s in the final serving huge. I think I returned better than the other days, but was impossible at the beginning. He was serving bombs and hitting the right spots all the time,” Nadal said. “So I decided to go eight meters behind the baseline later on in the match, and I think worked better for me.”
Zverev broke Nadal again in the third game of the second set.
A frustrated Nadal punched his racket head when he failed to convert two break points in the sixth game, but held his nerve to save four break points in the next game and then finally broke Zverev to make it 4-4.
But an erratic and agitated Nadal was conceding too many chances on his serve and, after Zverev broke him for a third time, he sat shaking his head during the changeover.
Earlier, Medvedev reached the Paris Masters final for the first time after beating Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a contest between big servers. He secured the win with a smash at the net.
The 10th-seeded Raonic has never won a Masters event and missed out on a second final here, having lost to Novak Djokovic in 2014. The Canadian had 12 aces compared to seven for Medvedev and both players won around 80% of their points on first serves.
“I don’t think it was the best tennis I have played this year, but it was definitely one of the best matches,” Medvedev said. “I was playing good in the beginning of the year, and then there was a stop [because of the pandemic].”
Raonic missed a chance in the second set when Medvedev saved three break points at 0-40 down in the eighth game, but Raonic finally broke him on his fourth break point in the 12th game to make it 6-6.
“I think in some key moments he found a way to be a bit more the aggressor. He was dictating a bit more, I was trying to change the pace up,” Raonic said. “He was a lot more efficient at creating his opportunities.”
Medvedev raced into a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker and sealed victory on his first match point. The 2019 U.S. Open runner-up is seeking his eighth career title and first this year.