Rafael Nadal is through to his 13th Roland Garros final from 16 appearances following a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 triumph over Diego Schwartzman in three hours and nine minutes. On Friday, the king of clay scored the 99th victory from 101 encounters in Paris, extending his dominance at the clay Major and earning a chance to fight for the 20th Major crown against Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
At 34 years and four months, Nadal beat six rivals and Paris' conditions, advancing into the final without losing a set, just like in the good old days. Former British star and the Roland Garros semi-finalist Tim Henman praised the Spaniard and everything he has achieved in Paris over the last 15 years, avoiding injuries and delivering his best tennis at beloved Major.
Nadal lost to Schwartzman in Rome in straight sets a couple of weeks ago in entirely different conditions, preparing the right tactics for the Argentine this time around. Rafa made a rock-solid start to create a 6-3, 6-3, 4-2 lead before dropping the intensity level a bit and surviving a challenging service game at 5-5, sealing the deal with a perfect performance in the tie break.
Nadal fended off nine out of 12 break chances, controlling his service games until the second part of the third set and stealing Schwartzman's serve six times to move over the top. The defending champion had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, delivering aggressive tennis and hitting 38 winners and 34 unforced errors.
The defending champion experienced problems in the first game, fending off two break points and bringing it home after 14 minutes to avoid an early setback.
Rafael Nadal defeated Diego Schwartzman for the 13th Roland Garros final.
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 four points behind the initial shot and breaking Diego in games three and nine to open two sets to love lead. The Spaniard was up a break twice in the third set, only to throw it away and keep Schwartzman in contention.
The 11th game was crucial, as Nadal repelled three break chances with bold hitting from his mighty forehand, gathering momentum ahead of the tie break and clinching it 7-0 to find himself over the finish line. "Rafael Nadal's numbers at Roland Garros are phenomenal; it's a joke.
He has scored 99 wins and lost two matches. It's incredible how he maintains the level of form, avoids the injuries and reaches the 13th final without dropping a set," Tim Henman said.