Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic to reach the Roland Garros semifinal. Rafa faced Alexander Zverev in a battle for the final and experienced one of the toughest challenges in Paris! They went head-to-head for three hours and three minutes before Alexander suffered a terrible right ankle injury on slow, muddy clay.
The German left the court in a wheelchair and returned to sit-ups minutes later to announce his retirement. It could have been one of the most entertaining matches in Roland Garros history, with Nadal leading 7-6, 6-6 before Zverev went down with an injury.
It was one of the most challenging matches for Rafa in Paris, and he had to work hard to get a positive score after three hours. A 13-time winner survived four set points in the first set and rallied from 5-3 down in the second set to force another tiebreaker before Alexander ended the match in the worst way.
It was an incredible indoor battle on the Philippe-Chatrier court as both tried to impose their shots and raise the bar in challenging conditions. Two sets delivered nearly 200 points, with Rafa taking just four more than Alexander.
The Spaniard had the advantage at shorter range down to four shots, and the German erased that deficit in mid-range and more advanced rallies. Both players claimed five breaks and earned nearly half the return points on slow court.
Zverev was a more aggressive player, giving his 120% to keep in touch with a winner of 21 Majors and carve out the lead in both sets. Alexander got a break in the first game of the encounter after a backhand error from Rafa.
Zverev served well in the first three service games to open a gap to 4-2 and set a good pace. The German had barely missed the first serve up to that point and was looking good to build the lead. Things changed in the eighth game when he made several errors to return the Spaniard to the positive side.
Rafa took over and created three set points on the return in the tenth game.
Alexander Zverev suffered a terrible injury against Rafael Nadal in Paris.
Zverev survived them and held after numerous deuces for 5-5 after 58 minutes!
Nadal saved two break points in the eleventh game, surviving but struggling 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 to rattle off five straight points and 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 steal the opener after 91 minutes! The second set began with 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 get back into contention. Zverev double-faulted in the seventh game to lose the lead before stealing the opponent’s serve for the fourth time in a row and opening a gap to 5-3.
Despite an apparent struggle, Nadal was ready to fight to the end. He made a last-minute break after Zverev’s costly double fault. 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 a couple of minutes later. “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.