Rafael Nadal booked his place in a 14th French Open final after Alexander Zverev was forced to retire injured from…
Rafael Nadal booked his place in a 14th French Open final after Alexander Zverev was forced to retire injured from their last-four clash on Friday.
A thoroughly gripping contest was unfolding at Roland Garros, where birthday boy Nadal had taken a mammoth opening set 7-6(8) after 91 minutes.
The Spaniard, who turned 36 on Friday, had just forced a second successive tie-break as the match entered its fourth hour when Zverev suffered a horrific fall on his right ankle.
A harrowing yell echoed around Chatrier as the German was immediately tended to by the medical team, before leaving the court in a wheelchair.
The third seed subsequently returned on crutches a few minutes later to reluctantly concede; making Nadal the oldest male finalist at Roland Garros since William Tilden in 1930.
Appearing in his fifth Grand Slam semi-final, Zverev made a confident start by breaking Nadal in the opening game on the way to leading 4-2.
Although, he was forced to rescue three set points after his opponent broke back to edge 5-4 ahead. The third seed then surged into a 6-2 lead in the tie-break, but saw four set points go begging as Nadal clung on before drawing first blood.
The 13-time champion had prevailed in 269 of his previous 276 matches when winning the opening set in a Slam.
He would continue that impressive record, but only after an equally tight second set that also went to a tie-break after Zverev had led 4-2.
And the 25-year-old’s wait for a maiden Slam goes on following his untimely fall – after which he was unable to place any weight on his right foot.
Through to major final number 30, Nadal will face Casper Ruud after the Norwegian advanced to his first such showpiece.
The eighth seed beat Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 to become the first male player from his country to reach the final of a Slam – and first from Scandinavia since Sweden’s Robin Soderling in 2010.
Ruud was broken twice in the opening set by Cilic, who was the fifth active player on the ATP tour to appear in the semi-finals of all four Slams.
But unforced errors plagued the former US Open champion, who registered 56 throughout the contest.
Ruud capitalised by levelling before seizing control by breaking opponent twice in the third set.
Although play was temporarily suspended due to a protester evading security, the Norwegian’s momentum could not be stopped as he breezed through to a first major Championship match.