Rafael Nadal has won 112 out of 115 Roland Garros matches during his incredible career. The 14-time champion in Paris has lost only three encounters in 18 trips to the French capital, dominating for almost two decades despite some challenging obstacles.
One of the most serious one came at this year's semi-final against Alexander Zverev. Two rivals pushed each other to the limits on slow clay under a roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier, with the clock showing over three hours when they were at 7-6, 6-6!
Nadal fended off four set points in the opener and erased the deficit in the second set to stay competitive before Zverev experienced a nasty right ankle injury that forced him to retire in tears. The German fell to the ground after the 12th game's last point 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 on the Tour!
Rafael Nadal endured a tough battle against Alexander Zverev in Paris.
Ion Tiriac praised both players and stated that Nadal never gives up, even at 2-6 in the tie break.
Rafa played miles below his best, losing serve five times and trailing in both sets. Both players claimed five breaks and grabbed nearly half of the return points. Zverev forged an early advantage and moved 4-2 in front to settle into a fine rhythm.
The German played a loose service game at 4-3 to experience a break and bring Nadal back to the positive side. Rafa took charge and created three set points on the return in game ten, missing them to increase the drama. The Spaniard fell 6-2 behind in the tie break and found himself in a challenging position.
Suddenly, Rafa delivered his A-game to rattle off five straight points and extend the battle. Zverev fended off two set points at 6-7 and 7-8 before Nadal cracked a forehand down the line winner at 9-8 to steal the opener after 91 minutes!
The second set kicked off with four consecutive breaks, and Nadal found himself 4-2 behind after more mistakes. Zverev hit a double fault in the seventh game to lose serve before breaking Nadal for the fourth time in a row and opening a 5-3 gap.
Nadal fought hard and pulled a break back at the last moment following Zverev's costly double fault. 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.
"Rafael Nadal would do anything on the court to win. He trailed 6-2 in the tie break and still fought hard and won it," Ion Tiriac said.