Rafael Nadal won the first set but the Spaniard struggles in the second and leaves his final dreams in doubt
Rafael Nadal hopes to celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday by reaching a 14th French Open final, which he says could be the last of his record-breaking career in Paris.
Nadal, the 13-time champion, will face Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
Nadal won the first set 7-6 with Zverev pushing him hard in the second set. At 5:30 p.m. Paris time, 1:30 a.m. Saturday in Australia, Zverev led Nadal 2-4 in the second. Nadal then came back to make it 3-4.
The Spaniard is clear that his chronic, long-term foot injury has put him on loan time.
“The last three and a half years for me, all I can say is it hasn’t been easy,” said Nadal after his epic four-set win over longtime rival Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
“But I have to go on.” Nadal, who is chasing a record-breaking 22nd Grand Slam title to become second to Djokovic and Roger Federer, is constantly working to find a cure for the foot problem.
“If we can’t find an improvement or a small solution, then it will be super difficult for me.
“I just enjoy every day that I get the chance to be here, and without thinking much about what might happen in the future.
Finding a solution “I keep fighting to find a solution, but for now we don’t have it.” Nadal’s win over defending champion and world number one Djokovic was the 110th of his 17-year Roland Garros career.
He has had to dig deep into his means to reach his 15th semifinal in the French capital. the third time at the tournament.
Against Djokovic, he needed four hours and twelve minutes, saving two set points in the fourth set to avoid another five-setter.
Djokovic is the man responsible for two of Nadal’s three defeats at the French Open.
With his career-long rival out of the way, and world number two Daniil Medvedev and fourth-placed 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas out, Nadal remains favorite to lift the trophy on Sunday.
If he succeeds in what would be his 30th Grand Slam final, he would become the oldest men’s champion in Paris.
Against Zverev, he holds a 6-3 winning record, capturing four of the pair’s five clay court games.
Zverev, 25, is still looking for a first Slam title. He is in a second consecutive French Open semifinal.
He defeated teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals, but had to save a match point in a five-set win over Argentina’s Sebastian Baez in the second round.
He also never beat Nadal or Djokovic in the majors.
“I am no longer 20 or 21 years old; I’m 25. I’m at the stage where I want to win, I’m at the stage where I should win,” admitted the third seed who aspires to become only the second German man after Michael Stich to reach the final in 1996 to get.
In the other semifinal on Friday, Marin Cilic will take on Casper Ruud, with both men having reached the semifinals at Roland Garros for the first time.
Cilic, 33, and the 2014 US Open champion, is only the fifth active player along with Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to reach the semifinals of all four Slams.
Cilic, 23rd in the world rankings, is in his first majors semifinal since 2018, when he finished second to Federer at the Australian Open.
Ruud is the first Norwegian man ever to make the last four of a Slam with the eighth-ranked 23-year-old one of the form players on clay.
His spirited quarter-final victory over 19-year-old Holger Rune was his 65th on clay since the 2020 season. Seven of his eight titles have been won on clay.
Ruud has a 2-0 lead over Cilic, including their only surface encounter in Rome.
Former world number three, Cilic, defeated Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round without encountering a breakpoint, and seventh Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals on the back of 33 aces and 88 winners.
Only two of his 20 career titles have been won on clay courts, the most recent being in Istanbul in 2017.
Also on Friday, Coco Gauff, finalist of the women’s singles, can secure a place in a second championship game when she and Jessica Pegula defeat compatriots Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend in doubles.
Originally published as Rafael Nadal vs. Alexander Zverev: Spaniard fighting for what could be his last Roland Garros final