World no. 2 Rafael Nadal will compete in the 13th Roland Garros semi-final in the last 16 years, beating Jannik Sinner 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 48 minutes. Nadal and Sinner had to wait for hours to start their clash on Court Philippe-Chatrier following the marathon between Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman that lasted for over five hours, finishing the encounter just before 1:30 am!
Competing at his 16th Roland Garros, Nadal has never experienced anything similar, dealing with both the rival across the net and tough conditions. The cold weather and new Wilson balls were not good for the Spaniard's spins, having to play more flatter and beat Sinner with his weapon.
Rafa had to work much harder than in the previous four matches to earn the 98th triumph at Roland Garros, battling against a determined opponent before breaking his resistance in set number three. Sinner gave his best in sets one and two against a great champion, wasting his opportunities and having nothing more left in the tank for the third to finish the first Roland Garros campaign in the quarters.
Nadal scored two breaks from eight chances and suffered two breaks, completing the clash with 37 winners and 33 unforced errors to set Diego Schwartzman match on Friday. They both held at love in the opening two service games for a solid start, with Nadal repelling 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 from Nadal in a single set this year in Paris. Not stopping there, a teenager grabbed a break at 5-5 when Nadal sent a forehand wide, serving for the set and the best start of the encounter.
Rafael Nadal had to work hard on Tuesday night at Roland Garros.
With no room for errors, the Spaniard placed fired a couple of forehand down the line winners to bring the break back and level the score at 6-6 ahead of the tie break.
He was the favorite now, opening a 5-2 lead there and sealing it at 6-4 when Sinner sprayed a forehand error. The youngster placed a forehand winner at 2-1 in set number two to forge the advantage. The more experienced player broke back immediately after a forehand error from Jannik, leveling the score at 3-3 and gaining momentum.
Sinner had a 40-15 lead in game nine before Nadal took four straight points to secure a crucial break, closing the set at 5-4 and moving closer to the finish line after 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 again at love in game three when Jannik sprayed a backhand mistake.
The Spaniard held after another deuce to move 4-0 up, sealing the deal with a break at 5-1, overpowering the youngster and advancing into the last four. "Thank you very much for staying this late; the conditions were very tough 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.