Rafael Nadal made the Roland Garros debut in 2005. A teenager was among the favorites, and he proved that on the court to lift the first Major crown and become the last teenager to achieve that. Rafa has been a player to beat in Paris for almost two decades, conquering 13 titles in the previous 17 trips to the French capital.
Rafa has won 110 out of 113 matches at Roland Garros, and he is on the course towards the 14th title this week. Nadal is through to his 15th Roland Garros semi-final from 18 appearances at his beloved Major, beating five rivals and standing two victories away from the 22nd Major title.
Thus, Nadal became the second player with 15 semi-finals at a single Major, matching Roger Federer's Australian Open achievement. Struggling with a foot injury, Rafa was unsure about his chances at Roland Garros, traveling to Paris with his doctor and hoping for the best.
The Spaniard made a winning start, beating Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and two minutes. Nadal dropped 16 points behind the initial shot and turned over half of the return points into seven breaks from 11 opportunities.
Rafa faced Corentin Moutet in the second round and scored a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 triumph in two hours and nine minutes during the night session on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The Spaniard experienced two breaks and responded with seven return games on his tally to control the scoreboard and advance without spending too much time on the court.
In another similar clash, Rafa toppled Botic Van De Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes for a place in the last 16. Nadal lost serve twice and grabbed six breaks to seal the deal despite a little scare in the third set's closing stages.
Thus, Rafa set the fourth-round clash against Felix Auger-Aliassime, his first serious opponent in Paris this year. Nadal prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in four hours and 21 minutes for a place in the 16th Roland Garros quarter-final.
Rafael Nadal is the second player with 15 semi-finals at a single Major.
Thus, Nadal remained undefeated in the clay-court five-setters and set a blockbuster clash against Novak Djokovic. Rafa could have defeated Felix earlier had he converted more break chances, creating 22 and seizing only six.
The Canadian earned five breaks to remain competitive and became the fourth player who kept Nadal on the court at Roland Garros for over four hours. Felix joined Robin Soderling, John Isner and Novak Djokovic on the list of players who took two sets away from Rafa in the Roland Garros clash.
Still, despite a great effort, he could not play his best tennis in the decider to hit the exit door. Nadal started all over in the decider to emerge at the top and find himself in the quarters. In their 59th encounter, Rafa beat Novak 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in four hours and 12 minutes to dethrone the Serb and avenge the last year's defeat.
Nadal kept the second serve safe and defended eight out of 12 break chances. The Spaniard claimed 43% of the return points and turned them into seven breaks from 17 opportunities. Rafa fired 57 winners and 43 unforced errors, determined to control the pace with his forehand and make the first move in the exchanges.
Nadal toppled Djokovic in the shortest range up to four strokes and had the upper hand in the more advanced rallies to seal the deal in four sets. Novak had a massive chance to force a decider and prolong his chances, opening a 5-2 lead in the fourth set and creating two set points on his serve in game nine.
Nadal stayed calm and saved them to prolong the set, gathering a boost and moving over the top with a backhand down the line winner at 6-4 in the tie break. The Spaniard will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-final, never losing a match at this stage of Roland Garros.