Imagine being poor Diego Schwartzman and seeing a graphic showing Rafael Nadal’s record at Roland Garros ahead of your maiden grand slam semi-final.
100 matches played. 98 wins. Two defeats. Twelve titles.
Give me a spell.
Nadal made it 99 and moved within one victory of French Open trophy number 13 with a 6-3 6-3 7-6 win that looked straightforward on the scoresheet but took more than three hours to complete.
Only Novak Djokovic (25 in 2013), Roger Federer (16 in 2005) and Andy Murray (13 in 2011) have won more games in a Roland Garros semi-final against Nadal than the plucky Argentine managed overnight Friday – another stat that shows the clay GOAT’s greatness.
Nadal acknowledged his opponent’s effort by giving him extended applause as he exited the court and said his win over Schwartzman was his best match of this year’s tournament.
The Spaniard will meet world number one Djokovic in two days time with the opportunity to match Roger Federer’s record of 20 grand slam titles. Djokovic can win his 18th.
After such a discombobulated season of tennis it’s a dream finish to the grand slam calendar, even if Nadal is playing down his chances against a man who is yet to lose a match he wasn’t defaulted in this year.
“I’m in a final, I haven’t lost a set, although it’s true there have been other times at Roland Garros where I have felt better,” said Nadal.
“The conditions are not perfect for my style nor for my impact on the ball, so it means a lot to be where I am.
“I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. But for Sunday is not enough. I need to make another one. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Death, taxes … and Rafael Nadal making the French Open final. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Nadal made amends for his loss to Schwartzman in Rome last month, the first time the Argentine had defeated him in 10 attempts.
The 14th-ranked Schwartzman had knocked out US Open champion Dominic Thiem to reach his first major semi-final but found Nadal a hurdle too steep on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“The situation is different. I was more prepared here, Rome was my first tournament after six months,” said Nadal.
“Today that experience helped me to be careful. I tried to play with a plan, with determination, and the strategy was the right one.”
Nadal has defeated Djokovic three times in the Roland Garros final – in 2012, 2014 and 2015 – but believes his previous successes will count for little on Sunday.
“Different circumstances, different kind of tournament and different situation, no?” he said.
“I can’t predict the future. The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best. Without playing my best tennis, situation is very difficult.”
Djokovic was made to work even harder in a 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1 win against Stefanos Tsitsipas, in his 38th semifinal from just 62 grand slam appearances.
Novak Djokovic was made to stretch by Stefanos Tsitsipas. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Tsitsipas staved off a match point in the third set to force a fourth and fifth set but the gap between the golden generation and the new breed – even if the Greek youngster describes himself as an “adult” now – remains clear.
Djokovic took his record to 216-1 after winning the first two sets in a slam match by charging through the fifth to set up his 56th encounter against Nadal.
Djoker leads the head-to-head count 29-26, but Nadal leads 9-6 in grand slam matches and 6-1 at Roland Garros.
– with AFP
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