Rafael Nadal reached the French Open final for the 14th time in his career as a dramatic, long and chaotic semi-final ended with Alexander Zverev He was forced to retire in the second set after he twisted his ankle severely while chasing the ball off the field in a wheelchair.
After competing for more than three hours but not even completing two sets, Nadal won 7-6 (8), 6-6 retired. to advance to the final.
Nadal, who completed 36 on Friday, will now play for a record 14th place French Open Title and 22nd major title, his French Open win record is now 111-3 (97%). After his victory at the Australian Open, he will attempt to win his first two major tournaments of the year and go halfway to the Grand Slam.
“Very difficult, isn’t it?” Nadal said after Zverev’s retirement. “And it’s very sad for him, honestly, that he was playing an incredible tournament. He’s a very good teammate on the Tour. I know how much he’s fighting to win a major tournament but at the moment he’s not been very lucky.
“The only thing I’m sure of is that he won’t win one, but more than one, so I wish him all the best.”
With rain falling around Paris and the new Roland Garros roof being used for the first game of real impact this year, indoor conditions were advantageous for Zverev, removing the elements from the equation.
With the humidity under the roof, Nadal was sweating profusely in the second game and while Zverev streaked inside the baseline and effectively punched through the conditions, Nadal’s top spin was weakened and he struggled to impose himself on his opponent.
It started with a great opening set of 92 minutes, the length of a full football match, which produced moments of both greatness and awe.
For most of the first group’s time, Zverev was on fire. He started the match with his serve almost perfectly, dropping on the first serve while more than 80% of them fell to demolish the ball from inside the baseline as Nadal was turned into a spectator.
As match eight began and the stakes rose, his familiar struggles surfaced with his second serve and forehand.
He lost serve but then rebounded to lead 6-2 in the tiebreak. Against almost everyone else, the set was over, but instead, Nadal saved all four of the set points. After Zverev missed an easy 3-6 shot, Nadal hit a forehand with a shocking angle, winning the next point. Even as Nadal continued to struggle in his game, he rose to steal the set from Zverev with a resounding forehand on the goal line.
Nadal broke at the start of the second set, suddenly on top of the same baseline. But as in his fourth-round match of five sets against Felix Auger-Aliassime, when he turned down the momentum while advancing by two sets to one, he was thrown into a series of terrible service games. What followed was a chaotic, low-quality set that was hard to watch at times.
The Spaniard struggled from baseline, relying heavily on his falling shot rather than any powerful ground strikes, and Zverev twice faulted on break points, including three double faults in a match while serving 5-3. By 5-4 against Zverev, eight of the first nine matches of Group B were service breaks.
As the duo headed into the tiebreak and attacked Nadal at match point on his serve, Zverev chased a forehand and severely twisted his right ankle.
He immediately began screaming in pain and was immediately escorted out of the court in a wheelchair, a rare sequence that immediately confirmed the severity of his injury. Soon, with Nadal also off the court, Zverev returned to court on crutches and greeted the crowd while his retirement was confirmed.
Despite reaching the final, Nadal will not be satisfied with his game having only maintained his lead because of his endless fighting spirit and his breakout play. However, in his on-court interview, Nadal made it clear that his performance was not important at that moment: “It was a very tough match, over three hours, and we didn’t even finish the second set,” he said. “So it’s one of the biggest challenges of the tour today when he plays at such a very high level when he plays against him.”
He continued, “It is difficult today to say a lot of things in this situation. Of course, for me, as everyone knows, to be in the final of Roland Garros again is a dream without a doubt. But at the same time, to finish this way… I was there in the little room with Sasha before we went back to the playground. To see him cry there, it’s a very difficult moment so all the best to him.”
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