Defending champion Rafael Nadal reached a record-extending 14th French Open semi-final after outlasting Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in a tricky battle played in front of 5,000 fans in Paris.
Spanish third seed Nadal, who has won a record 13 titles, won 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 against 10th seed Schwartzman on a buzzing Court Philippe Chatrier.
Nadal, 35, will face the winner of Serbian top seed Novak Djokovic and Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini.
Djokovic, 34, avoided a shock fourth-round exit when he fought back from two sets down against teenager Lorenzo Musetti, leading 6-7 (7-9) 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-0 4-0 when the 19-year-old Italian retired.
Berrettini, 25, has not played since Saturday after he was given a walkover following Swiss 20-time major champion Roger Federer’s withdrawal.
Nadal is still deemed the favourite to land the title on Sunday, where a 14th victory would move him clear of Federer in terms of most men’s Grand Slam triumphs.
Up to 5,000 spectators were allowed on Chatrier after France’s coronavirus restrictions were loosened yesterday, providing an increased buzz as Schwartzman looked to create an upset at the place where Nadal has dominated since 2005.
Even though Nadal cruised through the fourth set, it was a far cry from straightforward afternoon for the Spanish left-hander.
After serving out the opener for his 36th successive winning set at Roland Garros, most would have backed Nadal to complete another three-set win to equal his personal record of 38 in a row.
But there was a twist. Schwartzman, playing with aggression and without fear, levelled at one-set all and became the first player to take a set off Nadal at Roland Garros since the 2019 final.
Schwartzman continued to cause problems and, for a short while in a tense third set, it looked like the Argentine could achieve an even rarer feat: leading Nadal by two sets to one on the Paris clay.
The last time that had happened was back in 2011 when Nadal trailed John Isner in the first round before recovering to win in five sets.
Schwartzman looked more comfortable on serve than his opponent, with Nadal showing a few signs of uncertainty.
Then, from 4-4 in the third set, Nadal suddenly upped his level to leave Schwartzman reeling and swing the match back in his favour.
Nadal broke for 5-4 and served out to edge ahead, then dropped just five points in a one-sided fourth set as Schwartzman – now sapped of energy and belief – wilted.