Alexander Zverev, who was giving Nadal a run around his own house — Court Philippe Chatrier — for 3 hours 3 minutes, of the first men’s semifinal, which looked set to challenge some time records, however, broke his ankle and exited the stage in tears. 7-6 (10-8), 6-6 was where the scoreboard was stopped.
In the 12th game of the second set, the 25-year-old running wide, chasing a forehand, came crashing down on the clay after twisting his ankle. The 6ft 6′ German, who had thumped 40 winners in the match, was clutching his leg and howling in agony. Nadal raced across the court as the tournament’s support staff gathered around the sobbing German, who was then wheeled off the court.
A few minutes later, Zverev returned on crutches to tell the chair umpire that he was retiring from the contest.
A message from Sascha 🧡@AlexZverev I #RolandGarros https://t.co/0yOhPq3EB7
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) 1654295941000
“Very tough, very sad,” Nadal said of the way the semifinal ended. “He was playing an unbelievable tournament. I know how he has been fighting to win a Grand Slam, but for the moment has been so much unlucky. I have been with Sascha (Zverev) in the small room before he came back to court. It was tough to see him crying. The only thing I am sure is that he is going to win, not one, but much more than one (Grand Slam). I hope Sascha is not too bad, I hope nothing broke.”
Alexander Zverev gets injured on court during his semi-final against Rafael Nadal. (AFP Photo)
“When he’s playing at this super-high level, it is one of the toughest challenges to play him,” Nadal said before adding, “It was an unlucky moment I think, I don’t think the court was in bad condition.”
In the three-hours in the middle, Nadal, who appeared to be battling the heavy conditions as much as his opponent, who oscillated between ripping winners and blowing chances as if they were candles on his birthday cake, struggled to take control of the match of titanic twists and turns. The final punctuation then came in an alarming fashion, following a tragic twist in the plot.
🎙️ “A very tough match” 🎙️@RafaelNadal reflects on his semi-final win at #RolandGarros
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) 1654295520000
That play started under the roof might’ve pegged the Spaniard back a bit, especially given the warm conditions which the German appeared to make better use of. Zverev broke in the opening game of the match when a Nadal backhand flew long. The No.5 seed, looking for a record extending 14th Roland Garros title, hit back in the eighth game to level scores. Then, in the 10th game, he had three set points on Zverev’s serve, but the German pushed the opening exchange to a tie-break, where he went ahead 6-2.
Nadal, perhaps played his best tennis of the day in the tie-break, stopping the clock on the set at 98 minutes.
🏆 1️⃣4️⃣ is just a match away for @RafaelNadal but the Spaniard was quick to acknowledge a difficult exit through i… https://t.co/5mIpQPWZXR
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) 1654284600000
The 21-time major winner’s toilet break, following the opening set, which saw the German on his feet, waiting to resume, perhaps rattled the 25-year-old as much as the loss of the first set. He was then broken at love in the opening game. Zverev returned the favour in the next game, coming back from 15-40 to level at one-all. The third seed then led 5-3, but Nadal fought back to level at 5-5 and then again at 6-6 when the curtains came down in an untimely fashion.
“It was a super tough match for over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set,” Nadal said. “Being in the final of Roland Garros one more time is a dream no doubt, but to finish this way… The conditions was not ideal for me to play my best. Winning the first set was a miracle, my ball was not bouncing. I was not able to push him back today.”