The king of clay Rafael Nadal is through to his 13th Roland Garros final following a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 triumph over Diego Schwartzman in three hours and nine minutes. Earning his 99th win in Paris from 101 encounters, Rafa has reached the final without losing a set at 34 years and four months, proving his everlasting class on the slowest surface again.
Nadal lost to Schwartzman in Rome in straight sets a couple of weeks ago in entirely different conditions. The Spaniard prepared the right tactics for a formidable opponent here in Paris to beat him in three sets and stay on the 20th Major crown course.
Rafa had to work hard against Diego, opening a 6-3, 6-3, 4-2 advantage before starting to lose ground, surviving a challenging service game at 5-5 and sealing the deal with a perfect performance in the tie break. Nadal saved nine out of 12 break chances, controlling his service games until the second part of the third set and delivering six breaks that carried him over the top.
Rafael Nadal will compete in his 13th Roland Garros final.
The defending champion had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, playing aggressive tennis than saw him hitting 38 winners and 34 unforced errors, leaving the opponent on a 24-48 ratio.
World no. 2 had to work hard in the first game, bringing it home after 14 minutes and two break points saved. He grabbed breaks in games two and four, saving another break opportunity at 3-1 and closing the opener on the third set point at 5-3.
Nadal had a clear advantage in the second set, dropping a couple of points behind the initial shot and stealing the opponent's serve in games three and nine to open two sets to love advantage. Rafa had a break in the third set on two occasions, only to throw it away and keep Schwartzman in contention.
The 11th game proved crucial, with Nadal fending off three break chances with bold hitting, gathering momentum ahead of the tie break and clinching it 7-0 to find himself in the final. "The conditions were tough, but I managed to prevail.
It's always special to play here and be in another final; it's a special moment. After winning the first two sets, I made a couple of mistakes, spraying two volley errors and losing the advantage. Diego played some good points, and I knew he would break me a couple of times for sure; he is among the best returners on the Tour.
I lost to him in Rome, so I knew it would be a tough clash. We have been playing a lot of matches, and he was better and better every single time. I didn't play well in Rome, and he is always at a high level. Three days ago, he played an excellent match against Dominic Thiem.
I looked at what happened in that match and what didn't work for me in Rome, trying to change that and making it happen today," Rafael Nadal said.