French Open: Rafael Nadal has another mountain to climb against Alexander Zverev
- Nadal holds a 6-3 head-to-head record against the 25-year-old Zverev with the Spaniard winning four out of five times they have met on clay
- Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the No 1 seed, continues her march towards a second Roland Garros title in three years after she demolished Russian Kasatkina in just 64 minutes
After the high of beating arch-rival Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal heads into his French Open semi-final against Germany’s Alexander Zverev on Friday aiming to keep alive his bid for a record-extending 22nd grand slam title.
The Spaniard’s biggest hurdle in his quest for a record 14th title at Roland Garros was defending champion Djokovic but Nadal overcame the world number one in a vintage quarter-final.
Zverev will have a chance to spoil the birthday party for Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday, and victory for the third seed would keep the Olympic champion on course for a maiden major title and the chance to climb to the top of the rankings.
Nadal holds a 6-3 head-to-head record against the 25-year-old Zverev with the Spaniard winning four out of five times they have met on clay.
The left-hander, who won the Australian Open in January for a record 21st major title, will be fully focused.
“I am not the kind of guy and player that emotionally goes high and low. I am very stable, I think, emotionally,” Nadal said.
Zverev, who reached the 2020 US Open final, beat a first top-10 opponent at a grand slam in 12 attempts when he took down Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz, ranked sixth, in the quarter-finals.
“At the end of the day, I said a lot of times, I’m not 20 or 21 years old any more; I’m 25. I am at the stage where I want to win, I’m at the stage where I’m supposed to win, as well,” Zverev said.
In the second semi-final on Court Philippe Chatrier, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic and eighth seed Casper Ruud of Norway will slug it out for a maiden final place at Roland Garros.
Ruud, 23, will go into his clash with Croatia’s Cilic having won both previous meetings.
Cilic has joined Roger Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray as the only active players to make the semi-finals at all four majors.
“Cilic, the way he’s playing might be a little bit of a favourite,” Wilander said about the former world number three, whose last semi-final appearance at a major was in the 2018 Australian Open.
“He’s hitting the ball unbelievably hard, he’s serving huge and gets a lot of free points. A very difficult match to call, I would say it’s 50-50 and a lot has to do with how Cilic serves.”
Also back into the Roland Garros final for the second time in three years and riding a head-turning winning streak, world No 1 Iga Swiatek is a player at the peak of her powers.
The 21-year-old Pole confounds her opponents, and overwhelms them with her stellar court coverage and aggressive game style – qualities that were on full display in her 6-2, 6-1 rout of Daria Kasatkina on Thursday at Court Philippe-Chatrier.