Defending champion Nadal meets with Argentinian Diego Schwartzman, who beat him at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome last month
Last updated: 7/10/20 1:45 AM
Rafael Nadal got his first real test at this year’s French Open, but the defending champion successfully stayed on the path to a record-breaking 20th Grand Slam title with an outright win over teenage sensation Jannik Sinner.
The Spaniard, who wanted to achieve Roger Federer’s record of 20 individual Grand Slam titles for men, was stretched by 19-year-old Sinner like seldom before, but won 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-1 in a match, that ended at 12.25 p.m. in Paris.
“Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power and great strokes. It was difficult for two sets, especially in the second set I was lucky to be back,” said Nadal. “The conditions were a bit difficult, he hit every ball very hard and in this cold my speed is not there. It was difficult for me to get him out of position.
“Now I have two days off, almost a day and a half, to rest and practice.”
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The first French Open debutant, Sinner, who reached the final eight since Nadal in 2005, confirmed his immense potential, but he just lacked a little composure when it mattered.
On the way to the first Grand Slam quarter-finals, he had already beaten two top 15 players.
The Italian pushed Nadal into the first set and led 6-5 before the Spaniard, who was chasing a 13th Roland Garros crown, rebounded to force the tie he tied.
Sinner, who is currently ranked 75th in the world, recovered in second place and took a 3-1 lead. However, Nadal relied on his experience to climb his way back and take the set before running away in race three.
The result is a delicious semi-final between Nadal and Schwartzman.
Nadal has won nine of his ten previous games but Schwartzman won the last one, on clay in Rome last month.
“He comes with great confidence, no? Two weeks in a row,” said Nadal of Schwartzman. “He’s in the final in Rome, he’s in the semifinals here. He beat me there. It’s a plus in confidence for him. I know that.”
It is Nadal’s 13th semifinal at Roland Garros and 34th at all Grand Slams. He’s 24-0 in the semi-finals and the French Open final, part of a 98-2 mark on the red dirt he’s dominated since 2005.
Sinner has been touted as a future top 10 player, but the teen says his only thought is to work hard to improve his game.
“I am a person who doesn’t look to the future or the past, always to the present,” he said. “In the end you have to show everything. I haven’t won anything so far. Okay, Next Gen, it’s a tournament. In the end I haven’t won anything.
“It’s just head down trying to improve, trying to play on the pitch for hours and hours, which I have to do. We’ll see where I am in 12 months.”
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