Barcelona SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Zeballos

Rafael Nadal and Horacio Zeballos will be facing each other for the third time in their careers when they battle for a place in the final of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Saturday. The head-to-head series is tied up at one win apiece, with Nadal cruising 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 at the 2010 French Open before Zeballos pulled off a 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 upset in the 2013 Vina del Mar title match.

That still marks the only title of Zeballos’ career, which he won by victimizing a rusty opponent. Nadal was making his first appearance since infamously losing to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon during the summer of 2012, after which he took the rest of the year off due to injury and also missed the Australian summer to begin 2013.

Nadal’s latest layoff–at various points during the spring, summer, and fall of 2016–seems to have reinvigorated him for this season. The fifth-ranked Spaniard boasts a 27-5 record, including a perfect 8-0 mark on clay that features his 10th career title in Monte-Carlo. Nadal is not slowing down in Barcelona, where he is 51-3 lifetime and also going for title No. 10. So far this week he has taken out Rogerio Dutra Silva, Kevin Anderson, and Hyeon Chung in straight sets.

A favorable draw now continues in the form of Zeballos, who has advanced with victories over Santiago Giraldo, Joao Sousa, Benoit Paire (in a third-set tiebreaker), and Karen Khachanov. The 84th-ranked Argentine had previously been a mere 5-10 at the ATP level this year.

Zeballos’ 2013 defeat of Nadal remains the only top-10 win of his career. He is since 0-3 against such opponents and 0-7 in total sets. This is obviously a much different Nadal that the surprising unseeded semifinalist will be running into on Saturday, so a swift end to his stellar week will likely be in store.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 3-4 games

36 Comments on Barcelona SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Zeballos

  1. Rafa in two losing 5-7 games I’m hoping it’s even more one sided. I don’t really like Zeballos much. I would’ve much rather preferred a Khachanov-Nadal semi.

    • Zeballos should not be underestimated. He had beaten Rafa on clay in 2013. I have butterflies in my stomach. I wish I could be like a Fed or Nole fan who are always confident about their idol when he is on a winning streak.

      • Trust me Rafa will not lose this match. Won’t even come close to doing so. Zeballos knows he’s screwed already.

      • You seem to have forgotten that one win by Zeballos was when Rafa had just returned from a seven month layoff. He also lost to Djokovic at Monte Carlo a few weeks later for the same reason.He then went on a rampage which continued right up until the USO.

  2. Rafa in straight sets but with one set a tight one, as Zeballos would surely go all out to make it a good show. He’s a lefty so Rafa needs to play like vs ARV at MC. Zeballos played some doubles if I’m not wrong so he’s not bad at the net and he did come forward to the net during his match vs Kacharnov. As expected Kacharnov not so great in handling net rushing opponent (even when its not done regularly), just like Chung.

    So, I expect one set to be competitive before Rafa goes on to take the match.

  3. The Vina del Mar 2013 tournament was Rafa’s first tournament after being sidelined for 7 months. Rafa did well to even make the final. considering. I never predict the outcome of matches so

    Vamos Rafa!

  4. That win at Vina Del Mar was s one-off. Rafa was nowhere near his best coming back from a long injury layoff. That win means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

    It’s on Rafa’s racket. As long as he plays his game, then Rafa should prevail in 2 sets. Lucky may be right about one set being tight. But I think Rafa is playing too well now.

  5. Seems that Zeballos couldn’t handle the windy conditions, serving poorly and overhitting or hitting into the net. Rafa handles windy conditions well, thank goodness.

    • Now this is what I like to see! Rafa fighting off break points with aggressive play!

      Well done Rafa! First set in the bag!

  6. Rafa always couldn’t sustain his high level of play in the second set. Zeballos playing better in the second set with nothing to lose mentality; Rafa playing like he has plenty to lose. He has so many BP chances but as usual squanders them away.

    • Zeballos played better in the second set, but that DF was costly to give Rafa a break point. This time Rafa gets the break and will serve for the match.

  7. Congrats to Rafa for making a tenth Barcelona final! I’m praying that Thiem shows up to play tomorrow and we get a competitive match. I’m glad that Rafa finally gets to play someone who is realistically capable of challenging him. Thiem may not be an in-form Novak, Stan, Murray, or Fed, but he is a top player, especially on the dirt. I really want Rafa to see some tougher competition going into Roland Garros in case Novak or Stan get to a high level, and Thiem is absolutely good competition, if he shows up. I, personally, do not see Thiem winning tomorrow, but I could definitely see it going three sets… When it comes down to it, though, playing confident Rafa on a winning streak in his home country is very difficult to overcome for any top player, let alone Dominic Thiem! I just really want to see Rafa get pushed by a top player and overcome it like he’s known to do. As for Thiem, he surely must see this final as a huge opportunity, possibly even a turning point. To beat the world #1 and the King of Clay back to back on clay would be arguably his biggest achievement thus far, so it will be interesting to see how determined he his. He has a good opportunity to show he can hang with the big boys, at least from a competitive standpoint considering it’s only best-of-three sets.

    My prediction- Rafa in 3 for La Decima #2! Making history…

    • Rafa in two competitive sets. Thiem was having problem with a subpar Murray, can’t see him pushing Rafa to three sets. Perhaps, if Rafa is too nervous when he’s about to get his tenth title here, then Thiem will have his chances for a set.

      Rafa was nervous in the SF today, making uncharacteristic errors even with his smashes, not only once but at least three times! I’ve never seen him playing such overheads so terribly for so many points, and theres once he was hitting right back at Zeballos who gladly returned with a winner!

      Rafa is getting too predictable with his CC to opponent’s BH pattern, that his opponents most of the time would be waiting there for his shots; he has to mix things up to make it less predictable.

  8. Yeah cant see Thiem beating two top ten players, and all time greats back to back, although it would be amazing if he did, and as much as i love Rafa, i wouldnt complain ….

  9. Rafa talks:
    “In weeks like this, the one that has more capacity to control the weather conditions, is the one who resists. I am happy to have reached the final. They are not the best conditions for me. And before Zeballos has not been easy. I was out of my place, especially in the first two strokes of each game, which is when I struggled,” said Nadal after his victory.

    https://www.barcelonaopenbancsabadell.com/en/news/nadal-overcomes-penultimate-obstacle-and-will-play-thiem-title

  10. Rafa absolutely needs to be tested begire RG. That is what has always brought out the best in him. He’s had an easy time of it in Barcelona, but Thiem is capable of making this a match. It’s up to Rafa on clay. I think he needs to play better in the final than he did tiday. He did speak about the conditions not being ideal now.

    It was surprising to see Rafa miss a few easy overhead smashes. Even the crowd seemed shocked. I expect Rafa to be ready for Thiem.

    It’s possible for Thiem to take a set, especially is Rafa is not at his best. But if Rafa comes out playing well, then it could be overvin 2 sets.

    Rafa will have more challenging draws in Madrid and Rome. I think he needs that in order for him to get to his best level for RG. We have seen at times that when the opponent isn’t challenging enough, Rafa loses his concentration. That’s why he needs to be tested. That will help Rafa to peak when RG arrives.

  11. Not seen Rafa play today but tomorrow could be a stern test for Rafa. Thiem was whacking winners with his BH and FH in 1st and from mid third set.

    Tomorrow will definitely not be routine and I hope its a proper 3 setter to give Rafa confidence and he comes through a challenge. He can rest till Madrid as there is a gap of 6-7 days.

    • Rafa can handle Thiem. Thiem as made to run like crazy by Murray’s drop shots time and again; and Thiem’s serve towards the end of the third set was subpar, having to serve a second serve so often, allowing Murray to almost comeback to win the match!

      Rafa has to make Thiem run more esp up to the net.These youngsters, they are not very good at the net.

  12. Rafa has won like 9 matches on clay without really being tested by a top player. Goffin was highest seed he faced till date and tomm Thiem could be the highest seed. Surprising he won a Masters 1000 and has reached final of a 500 without facing any top reputed player.

    • Hardly surprising. Andy and Novak far from their best. Kei and Raonic out with injuries. Roger busy fund raising. (easy Fedfans, that was a joke) Basically there are no top players to face.

      • Yes, I agree that there is a vacuum at the top of the men’s game right now. It’s not on Rafa if Murray, Novak and Stan all crashed out early at MC.

        Same goes for a lesser field at Barcelona. Nishi pulled out with a wrist injury. Zverev lost to Chung. Goffin lost to Khachanov. Murray lost to Thiem.

        Rafa will be facing a top ten opponent in the final in Thiem. It was always going to be either Murray or Thiem in the final.

        I would think that Stan will heat up
        at some point in the clay season. He’s not injured or coming back from injury and isn’t slumping like Novak. If the top two players continue to be sub par, then I expect guys like Kyrgios, Zverev, Goffin and Thiem to step up.

  13. I think Rafa’s comments are interesting. He knows that he didn’t play well. I am just wondering why he was nervous. Playing Zeballos is not a challenge.

    I guess it was the windy conditions that caused Rafa to miss those overheads. But if he was nervous in the semifinal, then I am concerned he will even more nervous for the final. Playing Thiem will be a lot more challenging than Zeballos.

  14. Nny
    How many times have we been apprehensive after he has faced a tough time in the SF? More often than not, no? IMO the Zeballos tussle bodes well and I reckon was the perfect preparation for Rafa.

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