World No 5 Rafael Nadal advanced to his 14th French Open final in dramatic circumstances when a serious ankle injury to Alexander Zverev halted their exciting battle on the eve of a second-set tie-break, in a match that had already lasted more than three hours, here on Friday. Under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, one of the matches of the season was cut short at 7-6(8), 6-6, when the German had to leave the court in a wheelchair after he badly rolled his right ankle, moving to his right when tracking down a Nadal forehand deep behind the baseline.
Zverev cried in pain following the fall and had to be assisted into a wheelchair by the physio and Nadal, who quickly made his way round the net to help support the 25-year-old. Cleary in agony, World No. 3 returned to court on crutches several minutes later to shake the hand of the umpire. He received a standing ovation from fans and a hug from Nadal, who is now one win away from capturing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam trophy. "Very tough and very sad for him. Honestly, he was playing an unbelievable tournament.
He's a very good colleague on the Tour. I know how much he's fighting to win a Grand Slam, but for the moment he was very unlucky" said Nadal on-court after the match. "The only thing I'm sure of is that he is going to win not one more than one. I wish him all the best and very fast recovery," he added. Zverev held four set points in a dramatic first-set tie-break before Nadal produced a jaw-dropping combination of offense and defense to claim the opener.
The intensity did not drop in a pulsating second set that reached another tie-break before a match that promised to become the best of the year was cruelly truncated. The injury robbed Zverev of his chance of rising to No 1 in the ATP Rankings by winning his first major. In a three-hour, 13-minute physical clash, both players looked to dictate with their heavy-hitting as they pulled each other around in front of a vocal crowd.
The fifth seed is aiming to capture his 14th Roland Garros crown and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title this weekend at the clay-court major. If Nadal overcomes Casper Ruud or Marin Cilic in the final on Sunday, he will eclipse countryman Andres Gimeno and become the oldest champion in tournament history. The World No 5 defeated long-time rival Novak Djokovic in a Roland Garros 4-hour, 10-minute thriller to improve to 29-30 in their head-to-head series and set the 10th meeting with Zverev.
On the other hand, Zverev, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinal last season, was looking to become the second German man to reach the Roland Garros final in the Open Era, joining 1996 runner-up Michael Stich. Notably, the last retirement in a Grand Slam semifinal or final came at the 2018 US Open, when Nadal retired against Juan Martin del Potro after the second set, with the Argentine leading their last-four clash 7-6, 6-2. The last retirement at a Roland Garros semifinal or final came in 2006 when David Nalbandian retired against Roger Federer during their last-four encounter. The Swiss star was winning 3-6, 6-4, 5-2 at the time.