World no. 2 Rafael Nadal will not be able to fight for the title in Paris this week, withdrawing ahead of the semi-final clash against Denis Shapovalov due to an injury! The Spaniard played well in the opening three matches but couldn't step on the court today, sending the young Canadian into the first Masters 1000 final.
Denis is the first player born in 1999 in the title match at this level, facing the four-time Paris champion Novak Djokovic in the battle for the trophy, just a couple of weeks ago after claiming the first ATP title in Stockholm.
Nadal will earn 360 points this week and Djokovic will have the opportunity to reduce the deficit to the Spaniard in the ATP Race to just over 500 points if he wins the title, hoping to pass Nadal during the ATP Finals in London and finish as the year-end no.
1 player for the sixth time. In the quarter-final yesterday, Rafa toppled Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6, 6-1 for the first semi-final in Paris since 2013, beating the Frenchman for the tenth time in 14 clashes. Delivering one good hold after another, Nadal kept the pressure on Tsonga who dealt with it nicely in the opener, setting up a tie break that Rafa won 7-4, stealing both the set and momentum and dominating in set number two to earn valuable points.
The Spaniard hit 25 winners and 11 unforced errors, prevailing in the shortest points up to four strokes and taking 23 out of 35 more extended exchanges to cross the finish line without spending too much time on the court, crucial fact for him at this stage of the year.
Nothing could have separated them in the first 12 games, with both players serving well to reach a tie break where they traded four mini-breaks in the first six points. Rafa placed a forehand winner to move 5-3 up, closing the set in the 11th point following a forehand error from Jo-Wilfried in just under an hour.
The Frenchman sprayed another forehand error in the second game of the second set to suffer the first break, pushing Nadal closer to the finish line and sealing his fate in this encounter after another mistake in the sixth game that gave Nadal a second break.
A service winner in game seven pushed Nadal into the semi-final where he couldn't play and fight for the place in the first Paris final since 2007.