Nadal reaches the final of the French Open after Zverev was forced to retire due to injury

Rafael Nadal is a finalist at the French Open for the 14th time in his career, as a long, messy semi-final ended with Alexander Zverev forced to retire in the second set. Zverev badly twisted his ankle while chasing a ball and was taken off the track in a wheelchair.

After competing for more than three hours without completing the second set, Nadal won 7-6 (8), 6-6 ret. to get to the final.

Nadal, who was celebrating his 36th birthday, will play for a 14th French Open title and a 22nd major title, with his record of victories and defeats at the French Open now 111-3 (97%). After winning the Australian Open, he will try to win the first two major tournaments of the year for the first time in his career.

“Very sad for him, honestly, he was playing an amazing tournament,” Nadal said of Zverev, who had reached the semi-finals for the second year in a row. “He is a very good tour companion. I know how much he is struggling to win a Grand Slam, but so far he has been very unlucky. The only thing I’m sure of is that he won’t win a single one [but] much more than one. So I wish you all the best. “

Nadal will face Casper Ruud, the eighth seed, in the final after recovering a set to defeat Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 and reach his first final of the Grand Slam. Ruud is the first Norwegian player to reach a grand individual final.

As Ruud rushed to victory, the match was interrupted for 10 minutes after a weather protester entered the court and hit the net. The protester, who entered the court and was able to get hooked on the network without even reacting to any security, was wearing a T-shirt that said, “We have 1,028 days left.”

A protester joins the network during the semifinal between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic. Photo: Thibault Camus / AP

In the previous semi-final, when it rained around Paris, the new roof of Roland Garros was used for the first game of real consequence this year. As Zverev entered the bottom line and hit effectively through the conditions, the Christmas topspin was reduced to moisture, with the ball up. He called them some of the slowest conditions in which he has played at Roland Garros. “I don’t think the conditions were right for me this afternoon,” Nadal said. “That’s why I wasn’t able to create the damage I wanted on him.”

It started with an all-powerful 92-minute starting set, which Zverev set on fire. He served almost perfectly in the beginning, crashed the first services, landed more than 80% of them and knocked the ball from inside the bottom line while the game was on his racket.

However, as the stakes widened, his family struggles arose with his second service and right. Zverev lost his serve and then saved three points from seven and bounced back to advance 6-2 on the tiebreak. Against almost anyone else the set would have ended, but Nadal saved all four points from seven. After Zverev missed an easy volley with 6-3, Nadal got an especially outrageous right-footed shot at the next point.

Although Nadal continued to struggle with his game, he is supreme in difficult times and rose to steal Zverev’s set with a thunderous right-footed shot that won the passing shot. He described his incredible recovery as a “miracle”.

Alexander Zverev thinks he was pushed and lets the ref know about it. Photo: Yoan Valat / EPA

Nadal broke the serve in the first game of the second set. But instead of breaking up, he threw a series of terrible service games and followed a messy set. Nadal struggled from the bottom line, relying heavily on falling shots rather than any weight on his bottom shots, and Zverev doubled the break points, including three double fouls while serving for seven to 5. -3. In all, eight of the first nine games of the second set were service breaks.

As the pair headed to the tiebreaker, Nadal attacked the point of play with his serve and Zverev twisted his right ankle sharply as he chased a right. He immediately started screaming in agony and was immediately escorted off the track in a wheelchair, an infrequent sequence that underscored the severity of his injury. After a while, when Nadal also went off the field, Zverev returned to the court with crutches and greeted the audience, which gave him a standing ovation as his retirement from the match was confirmed.

Nadal later said that when he went to see Zverev in the locker room, an ultrasound had been done immediately to check his ankle.

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“It’s been a super tough game, over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set,” Nadal said. “So it’s one of the biggest challenges of today’s tour when he plays at this super high level.

“It simply came to our notice then. Of course, as everyone knows, being in the Roland Garros final once again is a dream, no doubt. But at the same time, to end it … I was there in the small room with Sascha [Zverev] before returning to the track. Seeing him crying there is a very hard time, so all the best for him. “

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