Nadal Advances To 14th French Open Final After Zverev Ankle Turn, Will Face Ruud
One of the longest first two sets of tennis at the French Open abruptly ended in heartbreak Friday at the French Open. With Rafael Nadal leading 7-6(8), 6-6, Zverev rolled his right ankle just before the tiebreaker.
The German screamed in pain and agony as Nadal rushed over to assist. A wheelchair was brought out and Zverev was taken away for treatment. Six minutes later Zverev emerged on crutches and the match was over.
“Very tough and very sad for him,” Nadal told the crowd. “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. The only thing I’m sure is that he is going to win not one — more than one. I wish him all the best and very fast recovery.”
Zverev fought like a demon, playing some of his best tennis up to that point under the Chatrier roof which was closed due to rain. Seeking his second Slam final, Zverev had led early 4-2 in the first set and led 6-2 in the breaker with four set points before Nadal came up with the goods after over 90 minutes of play.
“He started the match playing amazing, honestly. Have been a miracle that first set,” said Nadal. “But I was there fighting and trying to find solutions all the time.”
The second set was more of the same slugfest, however no one could hold serve. Break after break, Zverev finally had a chance to serve for the third but failed. After eight breaks of serve a tiebreaker loomed until the injury.
“It has been a super tough match, over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set. It’s one of the biggest challenges on the Tour today when he’s playing at this super-high level, to play against him,” Nadal said after the 3 hour, 13 minute match. “Difficult to say a lot of things today, the situation. Of course for me, as everyone knows, to be in the final of Roland Garros for another time is a dream, without a doubt.
“But at same time, to finish that way… I have been there in the small room with Sascha before we came back on court, and to see him crying there is a very tough moment, so all the best to him.”
Nadal will now face first-time Slam finalist Casper Ruud. The 23-year-old from Norway has been arguably the second best in the world on clay the last few years, and today and reached the finals of the biggest event on the surface, rallying from a set down to top Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
After huge back-to-back wins over Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, Cilic came out firing on all fronts against Ruud with the roof now open. But Ruud, 10 years younger than Cilic, steadied his game and took over from the second behind his serve and forehand.
Cilic, who was so strong, began to fade. About the only interesting moment happened at 4-1 in the fourth when a climate change activist ran out on the court and tied herself to the net causing a 10-minute delay.
Ruud nearly dropped serve but held on and minutes later was in the final.
“It was a great match from my side,” Ruud said. “I didn’t start the greatest, but Marin also played well in the first set. I was too defensive and then I was able to break him in the second set and that got me going again. From that break I played some of my best tennis this year. Serving well, playing aggressive, So I am super happy with my performance today.”
Ruud will now test his skills against Nadal for the first time.
“It is amazing,” said Ruud of facing Rafa. “He is the last player of the Big 3 and the very top players in the world I have never played against.
“So I guess this is perfect timing and worth the wait. To finally play him in a Grand Slam final will be a special moment for me. Hopefully a little bit for him as well.
“He has played so many finals, but at least he is playing a student from his academy this time. So it is going to be a fun one hopefully.”
Nadal is of course a perfect 13-0 in the French Open final and he’ll big the big favorite to get to 22 Slams.
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