Rafael Nadal
Nadal faces stiff test against Alexander in the third-round clash today Reuters

Fourth seed Rafael Nadal takes on 14th seed Alexander Zverev in the Men's singles third round clash of 2017 Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday.

The defending champion opened his clay court season with a bagel against his second-round opponent Kyle Edmund yesterday, but was taken to the decider by the Brit, who fought back to win the second set. Nadal though brushed aside the challenge to take the match 6-0, 5-7, 6-3.

On the other hand, Axelander has made sure he celebrates his 20th birthday with a clash against Nadal on clay by decimating Andreas Seppi and Feliciano Lopez in straight sets over his first two rounds.

Nadal and Alexander have served up two classic encounters so far - 2016 Indian Wells R16 and Australian Open 2017 R32 - and on both occasions the Spaniard was tested by the then teenager. While the German missed out on a win last year by whisker to succumb to a 6-7, 6-0, 7-5 defeat, he pushed the 14-time Grand Slam winner to the limits in Melbourne before going down 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2.

Alexander looked threatening with his groundstrokes and kept taking the game to Nadal. However, in their first meeting on the dirt, the fourth seed will have an edge as the pace on the surface will suit his gameplay. Even when he was not at the best of his form, the Spaniard went on to win his ninth title in Monte Carlo last year, thanks to his tight defence that has always served him well on clay.

While Nadal will start the match as favourite, Zverev will be motivated to put one across his opponent today. Having won the title in Montpellier and reaching the quarter-final in Miami last month, the German is in good shape and knocking out the defending champion will be the best way to celebrate the end of his teenage.

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