French Open: Nadal Sets up Del Potro Semi-final Clash


Defending champion Rafael Nadal reached his 11th French Open semi-final by ruthlessly turning around his rain-delayed quarter-final against Argentine 11th seed Diego Schwartzman.

Top seed Nadal, 32, trailed 6-4 3-5 when play was halted on Wednesday.

The world number one, bidding for a record-extending 11th title, clinched the second set soon after the restart.

And he lost just four games in an hour and 42 minutes on court on Thursday to wrap up a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory.

Nadal said he was a “bit lucky” the match was halted by rain.

“I was able to stop, to think, to calm down and to see things a bit with more clarity,” he said.

The Spaniard will face fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro in Friday’s semi-final after the Argentine beat third seed Marin Cilic 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 6-3 7-5 in another quarter-final that was moved to Thursday.

Whoever wins that match will face either Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem or unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato in Sunday’s final.

Nadal is the hot favourite to win the second Grand Slam of the year, having dominated on the red clay since making his Roland Garros debut in 2005.

But the 16-time major winner looked in danger of being beaten here for only the third time in his career, trailing a set and break on Wednesday to an opponent who had never previously been beyond the last 32.

Schwartzman started the match aggressively, hitting 20 winners as he became the first player since 2015 to take a set off Nadal in Paris.

However, his fearless approach was completely ruined by the rain delays and allowed Nadal to regain control.

The match had already been stopped for an hour on Wednesday, with Nadal trailing 6-4 2-1, before play resumed at 17:28 BST.

The players only managed another 20 minutes on court before more rain forced them off for the night, but it was enough for momentum to switch in Nadal’s favour.

Nadal returned with his famed forehand finally firing on all cylinders, earning back-to-back breaks to move within a hold of the set.

He led 30-15 when play ended at 18:37 BST, returning at 11:00 BST on Thursday to wrap up the set and level in a matter of seconds.

“After the first rain delay, the match changed a lot because I played more aggressive with high intensity and things were more on my side,” Nadal said.

“Before it I was not opening the court with the backhand. I was playing too behind the baseline. He was taking the ball earlier than me.

“I had the feeling he had control of the point too many times to have the chance to be successful.”