Bernabé Zapata Miralles’ victory on Monday means there are now four Spaniards in the last sixteen of the ATP final draw at the Mutua Madrid Open. The player from Valencia will join Carlos Alcaraz, Alejandro Davidovich and Jaume Munar. The situation has not occurred since 2015, when Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer, Roberto Bautista and Fernando Verdasco all reached the round.
The names appearing on these lists belong to two different generations and, as proof of that, only the competition’s top seed has ever reached the round, last year when he won the title. The Caja Mágica is witnessing the arrival of a new generation and the future of Spanish tennis appears to be in good hands.
“It’s a new situation for me in a Masters 1000, but I do feel similar to at last year’s Roland Garros, with the fans, the excitement of playing in the stadiums, the affection of the people. I try to stay calm and manage my emotions”, he said.
Nobody has made things easy for Zapata, who had to dig deep to earn his win over Roman Safiullin (6-3, 3-6, 6-3) in two hours and 21 minutes. With the Arantxa Sánchez Vicario Stadium firmly behind him, the world No. 42 seemed unfazed by the dizzy heights he has reached at the Masters 1000 or the weight of responsibility that comes with facing a lower-ranked opponent (112) who has come through qualifying.
“I like being the underdog. I handle it much better when there’s no pressure on me, and there might be some when I’m playing against a lower-ranked player. I’m a person that tries to stay calm, do his job as well as possible and sometimes I don’t achieve that. This sport is very tough and you can even drop down the rankings when you’re doing well and I try not to lose perspective”, he continued.
The 26-year-old Spaniard capitalised on a break in game six (2-4) of the first set to close it out in 46 minutes and another in the second game of set three to seal, with 32 winners, his 13th victory of the season on tour, all on clay, compared to ten defeats.
Zapata now awaits the winner of the match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sebastián Báez. In either case, it will be a new opponent for this year’s champion in Rio and Buenos Aires as he has never crossed paths with the Greek fourth seed or the Argentine.
“I think Báez is very dangerous on clay because his level is very high and Tsitsipas is maybe one of the best in the world, above all on clay and it will be a challenge. The ball gets quite a lot heavier at night. I’ll have to play patiently and be tidy”, he concluded.