Rafael Nadal has won 14 Roland Garros titles from 18 trips to Paris. The Spaniard has been the dominant figure at the clay Major since 2005, experiencing only three losses and earning records that will never get broken. Nadal faced one of the toughest challenges in Paris in this year’s semi-final against Alexander Zverev.
The Spaniard and the German battled for over three hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and the second set was still alive when Zverev experienced a nasty ankle injury! The German left the court in the wheelchair and returned on the crunches a few minutes later to announce his retirement and send Nadal into the final.
Nadal trailed in both sets against a determined rival, facing four set points in the first set and losing 5-3 in the second. Two rivals gave their best under a closed roof and in slow and challenging conditions, with a possible six-hour match had they continued.
There were almost 200 points after numerous deuces, and Nadal won only four more than Zverev. Both players claimed five breaks after taking nearly half of the return points. Alexander broke in the encounter’s first game and served well to move 4-2 in front.
Zverev sprayed errors in the eighth game to love serve and bring Nadal back to 4-4. Rafa took charge and created three set points on the return in game ten. Zverev survived them and held after numerous deuces for 5-5 after 58 minutes!
Nadal saved two break points in the 11th game before losing ground in the tie break. Alexander forced Rafa’s errors in the seventh and eighth points to open a 6-2 gap and earn four set points. Suddenly, the Spaniard delivered his A-game and rattled off five straight points to extend the battle.
Zverev fended off two set points at 6-7 and 7-8 before Nadal cracked a forehand down the line winner in the 18th point to clinch the opener after 91 minutes!
Rafael Nadal had to dig deep against Alexander Zverev in Paris.
The second set saw four consecutive breaks, and Nadal lost serve for the third time in a row to find himself 4-2 behind.
The Spaniard got broken twice from 40-15 up and had to work hard to erase the deficit. Zverev hit a double fault in the seventh game to lose the advantage before stealing the rival’s serve for the fourth consecutive time for 5-3.
Despite an apparent struggle, Nadal was ready to fight and seek a comeback. He pulled a break back at the last moment following Zverev’s costly double fault in game nine. They both served well in the following three games to set another tie break.
However, it never came, as Alexander twisted his right ankle in the 12th game’s last point and retired in tears. “I left Rome limping. If the doctors had not found the solution to numb the nerve in my foot and remove the pain, I would not have had a chance at Roland Garros.
My preparation was far from good, but the confidence was there after winning the Australian Open. The semi-final against Alexander Zverev was very challenging; I have to admit that. Things were complicated, and anything could have happened had Alexander not twisted his ankle,” Rafael Nadal said.