Paris (AP) – Even the winner of the US Open couldn’t stop Rafael Nadal on his way to the 13th French Open final. In the final on Sunday (3 p.m. / Eurosport) a duel now follows between the giants and world number one Novak Djokovic.
The 33-year-old Serb defeated Greek tennis pro Stefanos Tsitsipas 6: 3, 6: 2, 5: 7, 4: 6, 6: 1. In the semifinals before that, Diego Schwartzman bravely fought against Dominic Thiem three days after his success, but against Nadal had no chance of 3: 6, 3: 6, 6: 7 (0: 7). Nadal and Djokovic have already faced each other 55 times, in a direct comparison the Serb leads 29:26.
“He’s at home here. Playing against Rafa at Roland Garros on clay is the biggest challenge there is,” said Djokovic, speaking of a “big fight” against the weakened Tsitsipas. The day before, defending champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies will have the opportunity to repeat last year’s coup against US Open champions Mate Pavic (Croatia) and Bruno Soares (Brazil). In the women’s final on Saturday (3 p.m. / Eurosport), Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin from the USA and Polish Iga Swiatek will face each other.
In contrast to the quarter-finals against Spaniard Pablo Carreño Busta, when Djokovic lost the first set and was physically abused, he started with a concentrated and focused start against the ATP World Champion. After the quick 2-0 lead, he had a match point in the third round with a score of 5: 4 and seemed already on his way to the dressing room. But the 22-year-old Greek responded, defended himself, and decided passage 7: 5 for himself. Now a gripping eye-level strength test finally developed.
“Outwardly I remained calm, but inside it looked different,” said Djokovic, describing his state of mind after entering the fourth set. At the beginning of the fourth sentence, Tsitsipas had to undergo a short groin treatment and take a painkiller. But because Djokovic only used one of the eleven breakballs, he also gave set four. In the fifth, Tsitsipas committed a double error to make the decisive 1: 4. He was now visibly battered, fending off the first match point, but was beaten after 3:54 p.m.
Nadal had it a little easier before. “All in all, I am very happy with the game. It was an important victory over a difficult opponent,” said Nadal. “I played with the right determination in the most important moments.” In his short speech in French to the Court Philippe Chatrier, which was only sparsely filled due to the Corona requirements, he had previously spoken of a “very nice moment”. With the victory over the 1.70 meter tall Argentinian, the Mallorca left-handed confirmed his special status on the red-as-fields at the Bois de Boulogne. In his 101st French Open game, he celebrated the 99th victory.
For the 13th time he is in the final in Paris and he achieves the 13th title. With his 20th Grand Slam triumph, Nadal would also play a draw with Swiss Roger Federer, who has already closed his season. “I knew it was going to be tough today,” said Nadal, “but I’m glad I made it.”
Schwartzman initially looked a bit tired after his five-set match against Thiem that lasted more than five hours. The first game of the first set took 14 minutes for Nadal to do his serve. He managed to hold the break to 2-0, but both lost the serve before Nadal finished the first round 6-3 after 67 minutes.
“Number one to me is clearly Rafael Nadal. That was clear before the tournament, he was always the top favorite,” Eurosport pundit Boris Becker said before the game, confirming that the second in the world ranking was in “excellent shape”.
That Nadal recently suffered the only defeat against Schwartzman at the Masters in Rome did not seem to affect this. Nadal controlled the rallies, had only a few weak phases and impressively underscored why he is the best lawn player in the world. The 28-year-old Schwartzman, who climbs from 14th to eighth place in the new world ranking and thus for the first time to the top ten, held himself against 6: 6 in the third set. In the tiebreak, however, Nadal triumphed and his opponent stood not a single point.