Nadal back in French Open final after Zverev injury

By HOWARD FENDRICH

PARIS (AP) – Rafael Nadal has become the second oldest men’s finalist in French Open history after his semifinal opponent, Alexander Zverev, retired Friday due to an injured right leg. Now Nadal is going to try to become the oldest champion in a tournament he has already won 13 times.

On his 36th birthday at an event he first won at age 19, Nadal came forward to claim a tight, exhausting first set that lasted 1 1/2 hours with a score of 7-6 (8 ). The second set also went to a tiebreaker after another 1 1/2 hours when Zverev tumbled behind the baseline while chasing a ball to his right.

Zverev’s black outfit was covered in rust-colored clay, as were his legs and arms, and he immediately grabbed his right ankle and screamed in pain.

A trainer came over to assist him and Nadal walked over the net to check on Zverev as well.

Zverev was then taken off the field in a wheelchair. A few minutes later, he came back with crutches and told him to stop the game. He shook hands with the referee and hugged Nadal.

Struggling with chronic pain in his left foot, Nadal racked up a pair of wins that lasted more than 4 hours each – including Tuesday against defending champion Novak Djokovic – but showed no signs of age, injury or fatigue against 25-year-old Zverev.

The match was played indoors at Court Philippe Chatrier, with the retractable roof installed in 2020 closed due to the afternoon showers.

In addition to bidding for a 14th French Open trophy, Nadal can claim his 22nd Grand Slam title to add to the men’s record he already holds after his Australian Open win in January.

Djokovic and Roger Federer are tied at 20.

There’s also this at stake for Nadal in Sunday’s final against No. 8 Casper Ruud of Norway or No. 20 Marin Cilic of Croatia: it would be the Spaniard’s first time ever to make the first two matches of the calendar year Grand Slam won .

Cilic won the 2014 US Open; Ruud has never been to a grand final.

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