Dominic Thiem battled back from the verge of defeat to down world No.1 Novak Djokovic in a three-hour, three-set semi-final classic at the ATP Finals.
In what was his historic 100th appearance at Roland Garros in Paris on late Tuesday evening, the defending and 12-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal outclassed his young and talented opponent Jannik Sinner 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 in just under three hours in their quarter-final clash to advance into his 13th semi-final on the Parisian clay.
With his straight-sets win over the teenager, the Spaniard improved his already superhuman record at Roland Garros to 98-2 and will now meet Diego Schwartzman on Friday in what promises to be a mouth-watering semi-final in Paris.
While Nadal won the quarter-final in straight sets, Schwartzman perhaps played the best match of his life so far as he edged past the reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6, 5-7, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 in a phenomenal contest that lasted over five hours on Court Philippe Chatrier on Tuesday.
Following his memorable win over Thiem, the Argentine now has recorded nine wins out of his last ten contests on clay and appears to be on a roll as he looks forward to face the ‘King of Clay’ in the upcoming semi-final.
As far as their semi-final is concerned, there is no doubt that Nadal starts as a heavy favourite, but Schwartzman can draw huge inspiration from his straight-sets win over the Spaniard in Rome just three weeks ago.
The Argentine upset Nadal 6-2, 7-5 in their most recent meeting in Rome, but that remains his only win in ten contests so far against the 34-year-old. In their only meeting so far at Roland Garros, Schwartzman was able to take a solitary set against the Spaniard when they met in the quarter-final in 2018.
Since Nadal opted not to play at the Cincinnati Masters and the US Open after tennis resumed amid the global pandemic, the Rome Masters 1000 was the Spaniard’s first competitive tournament since his win at Acapulco in February earlier this year. His loss at the hands of Schwartzman in the quarter-final was a clear indication that the 34-year-old was short on match practice.
But three weeks later after securing five straight-sets wins in Paris, the defending champion seems to be getting his rhythm back and now is just two wins away from accomplishing his 13th French Open title.
In their upcoming semi-final, it will be interesting to witness what strategy Nadal employs to combat the challenge from Schwartzman as he would look forward to learning from his mistakes that he committed in Rome to reverse the result.
On the other hand, after spending more than five hours on the court in his quarter-final, Schwartzman might be exhausted coming into his semi-final and it remains to be seen if fatigue factor hampers his performance in his upcoming semi-final against the toughest opponent that he ever faces on clay.
From Nadal’s perspective, the decent amount of time that he spent in the middle and the fact that he was able to win the first set tie-break against Sinner were some of the huge positives that he can draw from his quarter-final win and that augurs extremely well for the Spaniard as he enters the business end of the tournament.
For Schwartzman, the upcoming semi-final contest is his first ever at grand slam level and having faced the Spaniard before in Paris, he would be well aware of what he can expect.
If Schwartzman can consistently dictate the baseline rallies and put severe pressure on Nadal’s service games, he stands a chance, otherwise Nadal won’t take long to shut the door on the Argentine. The colder conditions and heavier Wilson balls can benefit Schwartzman, but Nadal seems to be unaffected so far by the unfamiliar conditions in Paris this year.
In their upcoming semi-final, can Nadal take his revenge against Schwartzman after his loss in Rome or will the rejuvenated Argentine create history to upset the 12-time Roland Garros champion? A thrilling contest awaits us on the semi-final Friday in Paris.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.