'Rafael Nadal and I played a fantastic match before injury,' says Alexander Zverev

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'Rafael Nadal and I played a fantastic match before injury,' says Alexander Zverev

Rafael Nadal has won 111 out of 114 Roland Garros matches since 2005. Almost no one pushed Nadal to the limits in Paris like Alexander Zverev in Friday's semi-final. Two rivals stayed neck and neck for three hours, and they were only getting into the second set tie break!

Zverev gave his 120%, but a severe ankle injury ruined his efforts just before the second set's tie break. The German fell to the ground and screamed in pain, and it was evident that he could not continue the match. He returned a few minutes later on crutches to announce his retirement, the first in a career!

Alexander shared a message with his fans, still not knowing how serious the injury was. Nadal had to give his everything on a slow court against a determined rival, surviving four set points in the opener and coming from behind in the second.

Those two sets brought almost 200 points, and Rafa took only four more than Alexander. The Spaniard had the edge in the shortest range up to four strokes, and the German erased that deficit in the mid-range and most advanced rallies to remain in touch.

Both players claimed five breaks, and they grabbed almost half of the return points on a slow court. Alexander delivered a break in the encounter's opening game and opened a 4-2 gap to settle into a fine rhythm. The German barely missed the first serve up to that point, but his level dropped in game eight to experience a break and bring Nadal back to 4-4.

Rafa took charge and created three set points on the return in game ten. Zverev survived them and held after numerous deuces for 5-5. Nadal saved two break points in the 11th game and fell 6-2 behind in the tie break. The Spaniard delivered his A-game to rattle off five straight points and extend the battle.

Alexander Zverev pushed Rafael Nadal for three hours at Roland Garros.

Zverev fended off two set points at 6-7 and 7-8 before Nadal cracked a forehand down the line winner in the 18th point to steal the opener after 91 minutes!

The second set kicked off with four consecutive breaks, and Nadal lost serve again to find himself 4-2 behind. The Spaniard got broken twice from 40-15 up, and he had to shift into a higher gear to stay competitive. Zverev hit a double fault in the seventh game to lose serve before stealing the rival's serve for the fourth time in a row and opening a 5-3 gap.

Despite an apparent struggle, Nadal fought hard and pulled a break back at the last moment following Zverev's costly double fault in game nine. They both served well in the following three games to set another tie break.

It never came, though, as Alexander twisted his right ankle in the 12th game's last point and retired a couple of minutes later. "Very difficult moment for me. Rafa and I played a fantastic match before my injury. It looks like a very serious one, but the medical team is still checking on it. We will keep you updated," Alexander Zverev said.