Will Rafael Nadal avenge his shock Rome Masters defeat to Diego Schwartzman when they face off in the semifinals of…
Will Rafael Nadal avenge his shock Rome Masters defeat to Diego Schwartzman when they face off in the semifinals of the French Open?
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Rafael Nadal vs Diego Schwartzman is live from Roland Garros on Friday 9 October, 3pm local/2pm BST
Rafael Nadal was denied crucial warm-up matches and wins at the Rome Masters when Diego Schwartzman shocked him in the quarterfinals – now they meet again with a place in the French Open final on the line.
Nobody in 12 previous Roland Garros semifinals has managed to beat Nadal, and Schwartzman – as if a 1-9 head-to-head against the Spaniard wasn’t daunting enough – played over five hours to beat Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals. Surely he will not have enough left in the tank with which to challenge the King of Clay.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
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Nadal vs Schwartzman: Head-to-head
Rafael Nadal leads the head-to-head with Diego Schwartzman 9-1, 5-1 on clay.
Nadal has won nine of the 12 sets they have played on clay. Schwartzman beat Nadal 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters recently.
Nadal vs Schwartzman: Preview
Rafael Nadal’s shock defeat to Diego Schwartzman in Rome was largely responsible for much of the speculation that winning this year’s French Open – in new, possibly unsuitable conditions and weather, after just three matches played since February – would be beyond the 12-time champion. So it makes a nice kind of sense that Nadal, back in the Roland Garros semifinals without dropping a set, has the chance to possibly reverse that result and make a statement ahead of a probable clash with Novak Djokovic in the final.
It was hard to tell, as Nadal sped through the first few rounds, whether he was finding his best level or simply not being meaningfully tested. But against Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, in the first set in particular, Nadal was tested. It was cold, damp and late (the match did not finish until 1.30am in Paris), and the 19-year-old Italian really took the game to Nadal, even breaking the second seed and serving for the opening set. Nadal needed to find something for the first time at the tournament, and he did: He found a pair of utterly ferocious forehand winners to break back, and he never lost it again.
Sinner didn’t totally crumble after losing the first set in a tie-break – he broke Nadal at the beginning of the second set – but he just found himself systematically being sidelined as a factor in the match as Nadal got better and better, figuring out how to play his aggressive tennis in those conditions. By the last set, Nadal was totally dominant.
If Nadal is disadvantaged about having to end a match so late – and don’t misunderstand, these can be serious issues for players in the routine of a tournament – then it definitely balances the scales, to say the least, that Schwartzman had to play for five hours against Dominic Thiem in his quarterfinal. Part of it was Schwartzman’s own fault: It really felt like a match he could have won in straight sets, as he was the better player from the beginning with Thiem clearly physically and mentally tired. Schwartzman even served for the second and third sets, losing both; he retreated into his shell as well after failing to close out the second set, abandoning the attacking style which he had used so successfully against Nadal in Rome, and only found it again in the closing stages of the match as he outlasted Thiem for the 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.
Schwartzman is riding so high on confidence at the moment, playing some of the best tennis of his career. Will it count against Nadal? I really don’t think so. Nadal played so poorly in that Rome defeat – in fact, he played like a man who had had seven months off! – and he’s not playing like that now. He’s serving well, adjusting his patterns with great success, and most importantly against Sinner he figured out how to get his forehand through the court in the most uncongenial conditions. Unless the late-night finish has really disrupted his rhythm – doubtful with two days to recover – Nadal will win this one in four sets at the most.