Rafael Nadal: 'I was lucky to break back in the opening set against Jannik Sinner'

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Rafael Nadal: 'I was lucky to break back in the opening set against Jannik Sinner'

Jannik Sinner was born in 2001, the same year Rafael Nadal turned pro. The Spaniard claimed his first Major title in 2005 when the Italian was only three, and they were the rivals on the court on Tuesday night in Paris. The 12-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal stayed on the course for the 20th Major title, defeating the young Italian Jannik Sinner 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 48 minutes in the quarters, advancing into the 13th semi-final of his beloved Major.

Rafa had to work much harder than in the previous four rounds to earn the 98th triumph at Roland Garros, entering the Court Philippe-Chatrier very late and staying on it for more than two hours just to win the opening two sets.

Sinner gave his best in those and had nothing more left in the tank for the third, reaching the quarter-final on his debut just like Rafa but not moving forward. Nadal got broken twice and produced six successful return games, finishing the clash with 37 winners and 33 unforced errors to set Diego Schwartzman match.

They both held at love in the opening two service games for a solid start, with Nadal saving a break point at 2-2 following a loose backhand from the youngster. There were no break chances in the next five games, as Sinner became the first player who took five games out from Nadal in a single set this year in Paris.

Not stopping there, a teenager grabbed a late break when Nadal sent a forehand wide, moving 6-5 in front and serving for the set. With no room for errors, the Spaniard placed two forehand down the line winners to bring the break back and level the score at 6-6 before the tie break.

He was the favorite now, opening a 5-2 lead and sealing it at 6-4 when Sinner sprayed a forehand error. The youngster held at 30 in his opening service games in set number two, firing a forehand winner at 2-1 to forge the advantage.

The more experienced player broke back immediately after a forehand error from Sinner, locking the result at 3-3 and gaining momentum.

Rafael Nadal defeated Jannik Sinner for the place in the semis in Paris.

Sinner led 40-15 in game nine before Nadal took four straight points to secure a crucial break, closing the set after deuce at 5-4 and moving a set away from victory in two hours and 11 minutes.

Carried by this momentum, Nadal broke in the first game of the third set with a backhand crosscourt winner, held after deuce and broke at love in game three when Jannik sent a backhand long to extend the advantage. The Spaniard held after another deuce for a 4-0 lead before Jannik added his name to the scoreboard, reducing the deficit and extending the clash.

Nadal sealed the deal with a break in game seven, overpowering the youngster and advancing into the last four. "Thank you very much for staying this late; very tough conditions out here tonight. Sinner is a talented youngster; he plays with a lot of power, delivering great shots.

It was a challenging battle for two sets, especially in the closing stages of the first, when I got lucky to pull that break back at 5-6. The conditions were a bit difficult because he was hitting every ball very hard. It was demanding for me to hit the way I wanted, as you can't get too much spin with these balls during cold weather.

It wasn't easy to move Jannik away from the comfort zone. I did a much better job in set number three, playing with more aggression and feeling thrilled about reaching another semi-final in Paris; this is the most beautiful place to play tennis for me.

Now I have two days to practice, rest a bit and recover and try to be ready for the semi-final against Diego," Rafael Nadal said.