Rafael Nadal qualified for his 14th semifinal at Roland Garros but the Spaniard dropped his first set of the Paris fortnight to No. 10 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, who was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 Wednesday.
Nadal, who is seeking a 14th title in Paris and a record 21st Grand Slam title, will face the winner of the final quarter-final between No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 9 Matteo Berrettini, scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. (18:00 GMT), for a spot in the final. The other semi-final match will pit Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas (N.5) against German Alexander Zverev (N.6).
“Diego is an incredible player, always very complicated to play for me. It’s incredible to return for the 14th time in the semifinals, it’s always a lot of emotions to play here in Paris, in the most important tournament in my career,” he said.
In total, the Majorcan recorded his 105th victory at Roland Garros and reached his 35th Grand Slam semifinal.
But his series of consecutive sets won on the Parisian clay court stops at 36 (his record is 38), after Schwartzman stole the second set.
A dose of suspense that the Philippe-Chatrier court, now authorized to accommodate up to 5,000 people, not full but happily packed, received with enthusiasm, he who had not been slow to come back to life in the first games of the match.
In front of a crowd not seen for two years at Roland Garros, Nadal got off to the best possible start and took the first set in three quarters of an hour, after an initial exchange of breaks.
But then he lost the thread a bit, while Schwartzman was solid and enterprising in the exchange, and destabilized him in particular with short backhand shots. Leading 3 games to 0, the diminutive Argentine (1.68m) could not prevent the Spaniard from regaining the lead, but he then took his chance perfectly at 5-4 on his opponent’s serve when, on set point, Nadal hit a bad drop shot and drilled a forehand.
“I started the second set badly. I was able to come back (at 3-3), but I made a bad return game again (at 4-4) and I knew that it would be complicated to keep my serve,” he explained.
At this point in the match, the Majorcan, all master of the place that he is, appeared visibly nervous, discussing with the referee from his bench, and for a moment, even on the edge, giving the impression of playing with a thousand precautions and no longer committing himself to his shots.
Schwartzman led 4 games to 3, but was unable to make a difference, as “Rafa” managed to stay in contact despite some unusual mistakes. Fatal for the Argentine.
As the set neared its end, Nadal suddenly broke the deadlock and regained his intensity. A break point to get back to 4-4, a break point, and another break point later, he was leading two sets to one after a little over two hours of play. And he didn’t give Schwartzman a single game in the final set, which was completed in 26 minutes.
Nadal and Schwartzman were the only two players in the men’s draw to reach the quarter-finals without losing a set.