The Spaniard reaches his fourteenth final at Roland Garros due to a fall of the German tennis player
The three-hour battle between Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev ended in the worst possible way, with the German falling, hurting his ankle and forcing him to leave Paris in a wheelchair. A very sad ending for what was being one of the great matches of the tournament, in which Nadal dominated by a very narrow margin. When Zverev, in tears and helped by medical assistance, left the court, Nadal was up 7-6 (8) and 6-6, but there was no epic ending, just an unfortunate fall.
The Spaniard thus reaches his fourteenth final in Paris, all won to date, and is now waiting for the winner of the match between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic.
Zverev, on crutches, appeared after ten minutes of medical assistance, to say goodbye to Nadal, greet the chair umpire and finish the tournament. Until that fall, at the gates of the final 'tie break', the meeting was fulfilling all expectations. Three hours of battle and not even two sets had been completed. The duel was a brutal ups and downs, like a roller coaster, with continuous alternatives and with very little efficiency on serve.
The German struck first, breaking Nadal's first serve. A blow to the chin of the Spaniard, who recovered to tie the match, put the 5-4 in favor and enjoy three set points. All deactivated by the German's serve and backhand, sharper than ever. Zverev was at a very high level, used to giving in these instances always with the 'Big Three'. But this time he wanted the surprise, to overthrow a Nadal who had beaten him four times on clay so far. The tiebreaker was a wake-up call. He was up 6-2 and just barely grabbed the first set.
He suffered an incredible disaster. He missed four set points, one of them unlikely in the net. He could not believe it and the opportunities came for Nadal, crouched in the trench, with the rifle ready for Zverev to lower his guard. He had another two set points, won by the German in endless rallies, until the sixth in total arrived, the most complicated. Impossible serve from Zverev, dead rest in the middle of the track and Zverev's ax. Nadal, glued to the wall, connected a 'passing shot' to the line. Set.
Radical blow to the match, which turned in favor of the Spanish. But the verdict was missing. The alternatives to the service followed one another, erratic in the two players. Nadal, below 50% of the first, Zverev, without reaching 70% and with double faults as a flag. The Spaniard lost his serve four times - the first time in history that he lost his serve so many times in a set -, Zverev, another four. Especially the last one, when the one from Hamburg served to tie the set. That was the moment when the game script broke.
On the way to the three hours, with exchanges of more than 40 strokes in between, Nadal placed a right hand in the middle of the court that caught Zverev off foot. The German went to the ground. He sprained his ankle. Covered in dirt, he was unable to get up. He was seen sobbing and both Nadal and the tournament doctors approached. His body language warned that he couldn't go on. When the wheelchair entered the track, the worst fears were confirmed. Zverev, between the chair and the assists, could not get out by his own foot. He leaned on the shoulder of one of the doctors and signed his goodbye. Not official, since he first went through changing rooms, but almost.
After about ten minutes in the back room of the Philippe Chatrier, Zverev returned to the track, on crutches, shook hands with the chair umpire and hugged Nadal. The ankle couldn't take it anymore. Nadal, by withdrawal, went to his fourteenth final at Roland Garros, the previous thirteen fell on his side. This Sunday's will be against an unknown opponent in the title match in the French capital. Or the Norwegian Casper Ruud or the Croatian Marin Cilic. He has never faced Ruud, he has beaten Cilic seven times and only lost twice.
Nadal: "I am very sad, Zverev has had an incredible tournament"
Never has qualifying for a Roland Garros final had such a bitter taste for Rafa Nadal. The Spaniard reached his fourteenth final on the clay of Paris in the worst shape, due to the injury of his rival, Alexander Zverev, with whom until the fateful moment of his fall he was starring in a real battle.
Nadal's serious expression as his rival retired to the locker room said it all. There he consoled the thirteen-time champion in Paris, before returning to the track. «I am very sad, he has had an incredible tournament, I know how much he is fighting to win a Grand Slam. I have been in the small room with Sascha, I was crying and it was hard, "he summed up the fans of the Philippe Chatrier, in which the atmosphere of sorrow and sadness reigned over a cruel outcome for a match that promised to go down in memory.