Rafael Nadal has won 14 Roland Garros titles in 18 trips to Paris. The Spaniard has been the dominant figure in the clay-court Major since 2005, experiencing just three losses and winning records that will never be broken. Nadal faced one of the toughest challenges in Paris in this year’s semifinal against Alexander Zverev.
The Spaniard and German battled for over three hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and the second set was still alive when Zverev suffered a nasty ankle injury! The German left the court in a wheelchair and returned to the abs a few minutes later to announce his retirement and send Nadal to the final.
Nadal trailed in both sets against a determined opponent, facing four set points in the first set and trailing 5-3 in the second. Two rivals gave it their all under a closed roof and in slow and challenging conditions, with a possible six-hour match going on.
There were nearly 200 points after numerous deuces, with Nadal winning just four more than Zverev. Both players claimed five breaks after taking almost half of the return points. Alexander broke in the first game of the match and served well to move to a 4-2 lead.
Zverev made errors in the eighth game to love serve and bring Nadal to 4-4. Rafa took over and created three set points on the return in the tenth game. Zverev survived them and held after numerous deuces for 5-5 after 58 minutes!
Nadal saved two break points in the eleventh game before losing ground in the tiebreaker. Alexander forced Rafa’s errors on seventh and eighth points to open a 6-2 gap and win four set points. Suddenly, the Spaniard delivered his A-game and rattled off five points in a row to extend the battle.
Zverev fended off two set points at 6-7 7-8 before Nadal fired a forehand down the line winner on 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 dropped serve for the third time in a row to find himself 4-2 behind.
The Spaniard was broken twice from 40-15 and had to work hard to erase the deficit. Zverev double-faulted in the seventh game to lose the lead before stealing the opponent’s serve for the fourth time in a row to make it 5-3.
Despite an apparent struggle, Nadal was ready to fight and seek a comeback. He pulled back a break at the last moment following Zverev’s costly double fault in game nine. Both served well in the next three games to set up another tiebreaker.
It never came, however, as Alexander sprained his right ankle at the last point of game 12 and retired in tears. “I left Rome limping. If the doctors hadn’t found a solution to numb the nerve in my foot and take away the pain, he wouldn’t have had a chance at Roland Garros.
My preparation was far from great, but the confidence was there after winning the Australian Open. The semifinal against Alexander Zverev was very challenging; I have to admit that. Things were complicated and anything could have happened if Alexander hadn’t sprained his ankle,» said Rafael Nadal.