Rafael Nadal had to face a lot of challenges at this year's Roland Garros. Arriving in Paris with only one tournament played since the restart of the season, the Spaniard had to embrace the new Wilson balls and different conditions to what we usually have in the French capital in May and June.
Despite all the obstacles, the 34-year-old champion is through to his 13th Roland Garros final from 16 appearances, advancing into the title match without losing a set! Former Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander admired Nadal and his performance in Paris over the last two weeks, saying no one would have adjusted to the conditions better than Rafa.
In the semis, world no. 2 defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 in three hours and nine minutes, maintaining a perfect score in Roland Garros semi-finals. Thus, Nadal is through to his 28th Major final, earning a chance of fighting for the 20th crown against Novak Djokovic on Friday.
After that Rome loss, Nadal knew what he had to do against Schwartzman, delivering an aggressive approach and keeping the points on his racquet. Rafa forged a 6-3, 6-3, 4-2 advantage before the Rome finalist bounced back to make Nadal run for his money.
Schwartzman pulled the break back twice, leveled the score at 5-5 and had three break chances in game 11 that could have sent him in front. Nadal saved those with perfect forehand winners, reaching the tie break and winning it 7-0 in a manner of a true champion.
The Spaniard saved nine out of 12 break chances to limit the initial shot's damage, securing six breaks to control the scoreboard in most of the encounter.
Rafael Nadal will compete for the 20th Major title on Sunday against Novak Djokovic.
The defending champion toppled the rival in the shortest and mid-range rallies, firing 38 winners and 34 unforced errors and drawing almost 50 errors from Diego.
Rafa survived the opening service game, fending off two break points and closing it after 15 minutes. They traded three breaks after that, with Nadal scoring two to open a 4-1 lead, sealing the opener with a hold in game nine.
Rafa had the upper hand in set number two, barely losing a point on serve and producing two breaks that pushed him closer to the finish line. As we already said, Diego came from a break down twice in set number three, battling hard to reach the tie break but losing it 7-0 to propel Nadal over the top and into the 13th Roland Garros final.
"At Roland Garros, you have to be willing to play when it's 30 degrees, when the sun is shining and the ball is bouncing over your head, and then sometimes when it's cold - even in May and June. Today we saw the greatness of Rafael Nadal.
It doesn't matter in the end what the conditions are; he's nearly impossible to beat. Of course, he prefers the warmer weather. But you're going to have to play for five hours to take Nadal on a slow clay-court. He adjusts to the conditions at Roland Garros by far better than anyone else," Mats Wilander said.