Rafael Nadal made a perfect Roland Garros debut in 2005, winning the title at 19 and starting an incredible Parisian journey that still goes on. The 12-time champion arrived in Paris without a proper clay swing this year, and in entirely different conditions to what we have in May and June, playing with the new Wilson balls as well.
Despite an early loss in Rome and those obstacles in Paris, Nadal is through to his 13th final at his beloved Major at 34, beating Diego Schwartzman in the semi-final encounter. Adapting his game to the conditions, Nadal is yet to lose a set in Paris after six matches, playing his best tennis when it mattered the most to set the title clash against Novak Djokovic on Sunday, chasing that elusive 20th Major crown.
The fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro lost to Rafa in the Roland Garros quarter-final three times in 2008, 2010 and 2012. After taking only three games in that first encounter, Almagro was there to challenge Rafa in 2010 and 2012, only to suffer 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 and 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 losses.
Like many others, Almagro was pleased with the way his compatriot defeated Schwartzman on Friday, saying Nadal should receive the Eiffel Tower instead of a regular Roland Garros trophy after reaching the 13th final from 16 trips to Paris!
In the semis, world no. 2 defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 in three hours and nine minutes, becoming the third-oldest Roland Garros finalist. After that Rome failure, Nadal was ready to turn the tables around and deliver the right tactics for the Argentine.
The Spaniard forged a 6-3, 6-3, 4-2 advantage, doing everything right on both serve and return before Diego started to climb back and made the encounter more enjoyable. 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, as the real champions do.
Nicolas Almagro praised Rafael Nadal following the 13th Roland Garros final.
Rafa saved nine out of 12 break chances and delivered two breaks in each set to remain in front.
Nadal had the advantage in the shortest and mid-range rallies with that aggressive approach, firing 38 winners and 34 unforced errors and drawing almost 50 errors from his opponent, who couldn't repeat Rome's level.
The Spaniard saved two break points in the first game, earning two quick breaks and winning the opener 6-3. It was all about him in set number two, serving well and stealing the opponent's serve twice to make a big push towards 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 that he lost 7-0, ending his journey in the semis and propelling Rafa into the title match.