Rafael Nadal proves himself the man for all seasons with semi-final win to stay on course for 13th French Open title

The high spirits on Nadal's face could clearly be seen when the clay court king reached his 13th final at Roland Garros - REUTERS
Everything about this French Open - the low temperatures, the heavy balls, the damp coldness of the chunky clay - was designed to give Rafael Nadal a tougher ride to the title than he usually sees. And yet, as Nick Mullins precisely noted in Friday's ITV4 comment, Nadal has again proven that he is a man for all seasons.
Nadal's 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 win over Diego Schwartzman leaves him just one win short of the Grand Slam record, which is Roger Federer's 20. He is also in sight of a 13th title at Roland Garros - which would extend his own record for most trophies in a single tournament. Federer is the only other man who has made it into double digits with 10 wins in Halle and Basel.
Predictably, the man standing in Nadal's way will be Novak Djokovic - at their eighth meeting at Roland Garros. But the way Djokovic fought Stefanos Tsitsipas through the second semi-final on Friday night was unexpected.
This became a real test of fitness and physical condition after Djokovic served for a straight-set win. At this point he even had a match point just to push a backhand just far. Tsitsipas then raised his level significantly to force a crucial set. But in the end it disappeared again and went back to a 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 loss that left the top two seeds to pull it out.
Nadal would not be drawn to this tempting prospect and would just say, “I am living my reality. When we're done, we'll talk about it. For me it is important at the moment that I will play the final of the most important tournament of the year. "
The trophy game on Sunday promises another heavyweight encounter. First of all, however, we should applaud the ferocity of the semi-finals on Friday. The tone was set at the very beginning of Nadal's opening game against Schwartzman, which lasted 14 minutes. It took the three sets of 3 hours and 9 minutes to get the job done, which is longer than many five set games.
Both players were ready to go into the trenches and drag the ball high over the net to eliminate the possibility of mistakes. But it was Nadal who had the confidence to carry out more lightning attacks, especially with his armor-piercing forehand down the line.
His game plan, in which the ball was brought backwards at 5ft 7in Schwartzman, was more effective due to the slightly higher temperatures in Paris, which reached a respectable 16 degrees in the late afternoon. There was even a hint of sunshine on Nadal's back, at least when he was standing on the north end, which always tends to get his juices flowing.
Diego Schwartzman could not repeat his victory in Rome over Nadal - GETTY IMAGES
This gave him a more comfortable working environment than three weeks ago in cool Rome, where Schwartzman had inflicted a painful 6-2, 7-5 defeat. When asked what has changed, Nadal replied: “I'm a little better prepared here, no? Rome was my first event in six months and the first challenge against Diego.
“Today I think the Rome experience helped me in some way because I could take a look at the game to analyze the things that worked well and that of course didn't. In general, I'm really happy about the game. To win against Diego you have to work a lot and play well for so long. "
It takes good sport to get off the pitch after such a strenuous fight and get lyrical about how much you love playing the Big Three. But that is exactly what Schwartzman did. He is an upbeat character, known for his dance moves and general zest for life, and he swallowed this lesson in clay court tennis with good grace. Maybe it makes it easier knowing that 101 players at Roland Garros went against Nadal before you and 99 of them ended up on the wrong side too.
"I won't say who is the better," said Schwartzman when asked about the different challenges Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have to face. “But I can say the best thing about these three guys is how different they are on and off the pitch.
“One likes to play on sand, the other on grass. Also one left, the other aggressive, the other slipping like nobody else. I really enjoy seeing these guys on tour and playing against them. "
Later on, Djokovic must have cursed the marginally wide backhand that kept him from finishing his semifinals in 2 hours and 9 minutes. The respite allowed Tsitsipas to regroup and provided some wonderful entertainment as both players started working with the fullest range of shots imaginable.
After the fifth movement began, Tsitsipas' inspiration disappeared as quickly as it arrived. He later stated that "an injury I had while playing in Rome came back". And after his unscheduled distraction, Djokovic was able to get things done in 3 hours and 54 minutes.
When asked about the upcoming challenge, Djokovic replied: “I'm fine. I think a day and a half will be enough time for me to recover. I've lost most of the games we've played to him [Nadal] on this course, but I also won one in 2015. This is the game that I'll look back on and try to take tactical action against him. "
4:14 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 6-7 (0) Nadal
Schwartzman unhooks his forehand after two powerful backhand strokes from Nadal pushed his opponent deep.
6-0 and six match balls.
He only needs one. Nadal reaches his 13th French Open final.
4:12 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 6-6 Nadal (* next server)
Schwartzman fails with two overheads, the first knocking back on Nadal as if he had RSVP on it, the second, with too much topspin to control him, he pushes out. 4-0.
Nadal maintains the pressure with another forehand. 5-0
4:10 p.m.
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 6-6 Nadal (* next server)
Nadal holds the first point with a forehand crosscourt winner after Schwartzman failed to get an overhead with sufficient strength. 1-0
Nadal then deserves the mini-break on the net with two great, lightning-reflex volleys. 2-0
Schwartzman's easy mistake on Nadal's backhand makes it 3-0. Two short vacations.
4:07 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 6-6 Nadal (* next server)
Schwartzman has come to life playing some magical backhand winners. Nadal maintains his defensive standards, soaks everything up but can't stop Schwartzman from holding.
In the tie-break and the momentum is with the Argentine.
4:02 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-6, 5-6 Nadal (* next server)
Schwartzman plays a delicate, handsome drop volley game to get to 15-30 while Nadal continues to work. He earned two break points when Nadal's insane backhand drifted out. Nadal defends the first on his second serve with a terrifying forehand winner. He follows his scorching serve with a forehand winner from the center mark who cuts the right line to make it tackle and then moves to the advantage with a forehand winner on the left line.
Schwartzman pushes him back by putting pressure on his backhand and takes a third hold with a fine forehand, but Nadal defends him with a serve and a volley that requires two volleys. Schwartzman goes for a winner, but misses and allows Nadal a game point. But he's too short with his length from his backhand and allows Schwartzman to defend it with a robust overhead. A casual mistake by Schwartzman brings Nadal to another point, which he secures with a boiling serve.
Schwartzman serves in the game for the second time.
3:50 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 5-5 Nadal * (* next server)
The ball boys and girls have "We're Tennis .com" on the back of their shirts. At first I read it as "We're tennis scum" like they wanted to reclaim it like PD Heaton. Courageous but imprecise.
At 30, Nadal offers the chance for a backhand winner across the board, but he doesn't quite get there after opening the field and shooting into the net. And then, after a wonderful rally, Nadal missed a crosscourt dropshot and Schwartzman stopped.
3:44 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-6, 4-5 Nadal (* next server)
And yet, when he seems to have Nadal at least partially or temporarily under control, three mistakes on return made Nadal take a 40-love lead. And he closes the hold to make love with a deep forehand that Schwartzman can only reach to get and hit a moon shot that is out of bounds. Schwartzman serves to stay in this next one.
3:41 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 4-4 Nadal * (* next server)
Well well well. That point about the rudimentary hold after a break ... Schwartzman makes it on the third try in the set and the socially distant crowd in their boxes who loves an outsider cheers his fight.
3:36 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-6, 3-4 Nadal (* next server)
The last games were written by Wiliam Gilbert, topsy meets turvy. Nadal gives a break point after Schwartzman increases his strength and backhand accuracy and finds the whip and jump. He has to defend it on his second serve, which he does due to Schwartzman's eager return. He also defends a second with a rocket from a forehand winner after successfully pushing Schwartzman back enough to have no chance of reaching him. Schwartzman goes head-to-toe with the ghost of the gallows in a long rally that pulls him back to become two again when he creates a Nadal mistake and a headstrong volley from Nadal gives his opponent a third hold-off, an opportunity which he uses.
Nadal. Such a cool finisher was habitually broken and broken twice in four consecutive games.
3:25 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 2-4 Nadal * (* next server)
Immediately after Nadal breaks, the opponent only needs a rudimentary hold. An inconspicuous stroll down the sunny side of the street. Instead, Nadal mumbles him and falls back in love when Schwartzman makes three mistakes under Nadal's penetrating questioning.
3:22 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-6, 2-3 Nadal (* next server)
Fantastic rally with a terrific Nadal praise, a Schwartzman tweener recovery, Nadal's ride on the line and Schwartzman's crosscourt fading the wrong side of the line. He dug himself in well, but Nadal did it again.
Nadal relaxes unusually and concedes the breakpoint before his backhand cross brings him to a duel. Schwartzman gets another break point after a mistake by Nadal and this is taken when the champion hooks a forehand far. Back to the serve.
The judicial backhand never fails ... @ RafaelNadal #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/lsxlkgtPXf
- Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) October 9, 2020
3:13 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 1-3 Nadal * (* next server)
Scwartzman questions the umpire's decision on a ball mark at Love-30, but he can't win and it seems to have rocked him. It looks empty and Nadal takes it off and falls in love. The end could be quick now. No answer to this Nadal forehand.
3:08 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-6, 1-2 Nadal (* next server)
Nadal copied the previous game and played cat and mouse with Schwartzman, forcing him to move between the corners, pushing him further and further to keep his head above water during the rally until Nadal stopped playing with him and the Winner shoots when an error doesn't occur before it's needed again. Hold on to love
3:04 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6, 1-1 Nadal * (* next server)
He holds his serve without a fuss and with an ace only his second to boot.
3:01 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-6, 0-1 Nadal (* next server)
At 30-Love Down, Schwartzman throws caution to the wind and goes on attack, knocking a sizzling winner off his forehand from the middle of the court on the right line. Nadal comes back with two serves. Schwartzman cannot return. Relentless. It's too far to come back against Nadal anyway, but if he doesn't keep his serve he's toast.
2:55 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-6 Nadal * (* next server)
It's the ruthlessness of the murderer. Schwartzman cracks this forehand all along the line and his serve also begins to wobble. A double pause seals the set. It is the power of his basic strokes that Schwartzman cannot cope with in the long term. He has a nice touch and a fine range of shots with a lovely backhand, but Nadal in Paris can easily find speed and power even on this damp, mushy surface.
2:50 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 3-5 Nadal (* next server)
The rise after the fall. After the slump at the end of the previous game, Nadal refocuses, finds his strongest intensity and loves to love in the fastest game in the game.
2:46 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 3-4 Nadal * (* next server)
Nadal races to three breakpoints when Schwartzman collapses under the pressure and strength of Nadal and his own lack of strength, he hopes. Seed # 12, however, fights back when Nadal makes two mistakes for which he chastises himself. A fourth point in a row for Schwartzman and then another mistake by Nadal upset his opponent. Strange seesaw game.
2:41 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 2-4 Nadal (* next server)
Oh. Schwartzman is racing to a 30 point lead, but the warrior spirit is deep within Nadal and the forehand down the line is setting consecutive points for the reigning / defending / all-time champion. The way he has time to walk around his backhand and nail forehead is amazing. Schwartzman hit two great shots, but a forehand winner and a delicate drop shot from the baseline bring the hand to 30 for the hold.
2:34 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 2-3 Nadal * (* next server)
A sensational shot apiece, Nadal with a handsome cross-court drop-shot winner, Schwartzman with an artful, sliding half-volley winner. ¡Vamos! Schwartzman yells and he seals his grip with two fine backhands.
2:32 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 1-3 Nadal (* next server)
If after the break it was feared that the moment had moved decisively away from Schwartzman, he tries to cover up that impression with a good winner, but Nadal, as the great Simon Reed points out, is like a sponge and soaks everything up until he does discovers the opening and strikes back. It's like a punching bag with its own haymaker. At 30, the referee comes out of her chair to look at the mark left by a Schwartzman winner and accepts Nadal's claim that it was indeed out. 40-30. Nadal closes the hold by increasing the speed and power of his backhand from Schwartzman's flat reverse. He has won four of the last five games.
2:24 pm
Schwartzman 3-6, 1-2 Nadal * (* next server)
A shout of frustration and / or desperation from Schwartzman as he misjudges his stroke from Nadal's return and steals the left-handed back to back to move on to Love-30. Still, Schwartzman gets it going for the next two points, but at 30 he goes on the line for a very tricky forehand winner and swings him into the net post. And Nadal seals the break with a brave, defensive rally until he finds the opening on his forehand.
2:20 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6, 1-1 Nadal (* next server)
Schwartzman, a great rally at 30-Love, gives maximum power to his punches by playing them with his feet off the ground and throwing the momentum of his entire body weight into them. But to no avail, because Nadal loves to love on the back of two scorching forehand winners.
2:15 p.m.
Schwartzman 3-6, 1-0 Nadal * (* next server)
The sweat will dominate Nadal when he sets up a backhand winner whose left hand slips off the racket. Schwartzman reaches for love and increases the aggression factor with a sizzling forehead.
2:11 pm
Schwartzman * 3-6 Nadal (* next server)
Schwartzman maintains his lead in the longer rallies, winning 12-9 in those over 12 strokes, but Nadal dominates whatever is shorter. A couple of mistakes by the 12-time champion allow Schwartzman to force a duel. However, if Nadal brings pace and aggression to a long rally, he can handcuff a majestic backhand cross-court winner to take advantage. Schwartzman stays at it, defending his forehead all along the line until he fires one at Nadal's feet that he can no longer get over the net. Deuce Deux. Nadal notes that Schwartzman is very far behind his baseline after a return and plays a great back-spun-drop winner to take advantage again. After 64 minutes he wins the opening movement when Schwartzman hits a backhand into the net.
Diego Schwartzman plays a shot against Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the semi-final match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France - Alessandra Tarantino / AP
1:59 pm
Schwartzman 3-5 Nadal * (* next server)
After the simplest game in the game comes another one, now for Schwartzman, the only flaw who has a double fault in a hold on 15 will serve Nadal for the set.
1:55 pm
Schwartzman * 2-5 Nadal (* next server)
Nadal serve volleys move to 15-40 after a couple of withered forehand winners, and Schwartzman hits his return too long to put Nadal 5-2 up and hold at 15 for once.
1:51 pm
Schwartzman 2-4 Nadal * (* next server)
The disheartening thing for Schwartzman is that he has excellent ground play, has played some notable punches already, but Rafa's strength and ability to grind and hold on in games means he is earning points he cannot win and so seamlessly off Defense switches to attack. But this time Schwartzman stops, turns the tables on Nadal and manipulates him from side to side until either a mistake or a Schwartzman winner comes.
1:46 pm
Schwartzman * 1-4 Nadal (* next server)
Another forehand winner from Nadal across the board, such a cover version of the first that Arvind Parmar says she hit the ballmark of the first from the last game. Nadal then runs for a slow return to the center to beat up a forehand winner who kisses the line from Schwartzman's ad space. But the Argentine is not worried and goes on the offensive, forcing Nadal to take off his socks. This aggression scores two points in a row to improve it, but an erratic jump and the strong breeze messing up his timing allow Nadal to move to the advantage. Schwartzman defends well until Nadal makes a mistake. Deuce again. Nadal runs in for a drop shot and hacks it into the net. A touch of frame.
It's the perfect time for the first ace of the game and Nadal agrees to pull it back, and he wins the next point by devouring an underspun drop shot and pinning a forehand winner. Nadal's forehand down the line isn't a winner in and of itself, but she completes the hold when Schwartzman can only hit her with a forehand he can't get over the net.
1:36 pm
Schwartzman 1-3 Nadal * (* next server)
The pitch is playing slowly again today - the October humidity is affecting Nadal's timing and ability to give the ball its power. He pounds a returnee from Schwartzman's second serve and then whips a brutal Crosscurt backhand winner. Two breakpoints are accumulated when he torpedoes a blistered forehand winner on the line and only needs one of them. He pushes Schwartzman back and forth until he comes on the net and throws off an overhead to take three breaks in a row.
14 minutes first game

If Nadal Schwartzman beats 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, the game lasts four hours and 12 minutes
- Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) October 9, 2020
1:30 p.m.
Schwartzman * 1-2 Nadal (* next server)
Nadal is busy with his shoes especially early in this match. Schwartzman makes his eighth casual mistake, this time with a backhand after a sustained rally of more than 20 strokes. He was inspired by a viciously cut Nadal forehand, but Schwartzman fights back by manipulating Nadal across the court to win two points in a row and earn a third breakpoint of the game. And he takes it - breaks back when Nadal hits his backhand from far in his two-way field into the net.
1:24 p.m.
Schwartzman 0-2 Nadal * (* next server)
Nadal uses the height advantage to bring butcher Diddy Diego's second serve to 30 and then Schwartzman double fault. Breakpoint. Scwhartzman boldly defends from the baseline, but Nadal holds on until his opponent makes the mistake and shoots a forehand at the net from the right. Nadal breaks off. After the marathon ... a sprint.
1:19 pm
Schwartzman * 0-1 Nadal (* next server)
Nadal wins the throw and decides to serve. He wears light blue with a mismatched red headband and cerise sweatbands. The lack of coordination is irritating. So much for not feeding Schwartzman's backhand, forcing a mistake by pushing it far out, and again the Argentine nets making an excellent return, missing a forehand close to the net. Nadal then plays a sensational backhand to score a forehand volley winner on the net, but Schwartzman fights back to 40-30 due to Nadal mistakes. Nadal uses a forehand to do it in pairs. Are Schwartzman aiming for Nadal's forehand? It seems so at first. After a fabulous rally that saw Schwartzman push Nadal in both corners, he nails a backhand crosscourt winner drilled flat over the net to create a breakpoint that NAdal must defend on a second serve.
He reaches for the trusty kicker and Schwartzman goes way back aiming his backhand. Deuce II. The epic first game continues after a long rally ends with a poor drop shot from Schwartzman pitching a Nadal overhead winner. However, we return to Deuce while the game continues into the 12th minute. Then Schwartzman follows the deep backhand crosscourt with a stop-drop-shot winner. Schwartzman advantage. Deuce IV after Nadal approaches the net and ends up with a cute volley winner. Go on. Schwartzman shoots a backhand crosscourt centimeter outside the limits, then Nadal spoils his opponent with a touch of Schwartzmans with a fine crosscourt backhand winner who goes 1-0 after 14 minutes.
12:56 pm
They finally show up
Masked. First Schwartzman in a blue disposable mask, then Nadal in a tailored Nike mask.
12:53 p.m.
The players
Are late. No signs of coming out of the changing room yet.
11:56 am
good day
And welcome to the coverage of the first semi-final of the French Open. Rafa Nadal, 12-time winner at Roland Garros, will take on the pocket rocket Diego Schwartzman, his conqueror on clay at the Rome Masters a few weeks ago. A Fit Nadal only lost once at the French Open and was in the quarter-finals against Novak Djokovic in 2015. Eleven years ago he was defeated on one leg by Robin Soderling. The goal of a game has seldom seemed so precise, Nadal is striving for a 13th title, has not lost a set, leads Schwartzman 9-1 head to head and his opponent had a tough semi-final with five sets. Three of them went over the distance to a tie. However, these are not normal times, as our correspondent Simon Briggs notes:
Even before this event began, Nadal warned that “the conditions here at Roland Garros are probably the most difficult for me”. Now it looks like the final on Sunday could be the first Grand Slam showpiece to be played at 13 degrees. Nadal's 12 French Open titles are not only based on the dwindling power of his legendary left-handed forehand, but also on the vicious top spin that makes the ball bounce up your throat. On a hot day in May or the beginning of June it is not playable on Court Philippe Chatrier: the Minotaur in its labyrinth. But now, in early October, the cold is dampening his superpowers. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Nadal experienced an uncomfortable role reversal for 19-year-old Jannik Sinner. This time he was the one fighting his opponent's superior firepower. The seemingly uncomplicated goal line - 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 - hid how close he was to the edge of his nerves. Schwartzman will be a very different challenge. At 5 feet 7 inches, he's the shortest man to have made a major semi-final here since Harold Solomon 40 years ago. He won't beat up a lot of winners, but he doesn't miss it very often either. And his backhand - the area that Nadal normally targets against most opponents - is as good as impermeable, as the youngest US Open champion Dominic Thiem discovered on Tuesday in a grueling five-hour quarter-finals.
He's coming with great confidence, "said Nadal of Schwartzman, who finished 12th at the French Open.
"Two weeks in a row ... He's in the final in Rome, he's in the semi-finals here. He beat me there. It's a boost in confidence for him. I know that.
"I will try to get on the pitch, do my best, play my game, play aggressively, do something different from what I did in Rome. I hope to be ready to play my game . " preferably. I need. "

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