Rafael Nadal will take on Diego Schwartzman on Friday afternoon for a spot in the men’s singles final of his beloved French Open.
Nadal is the French Open’s most successful player and his records at the event are simply staggering. 12 of his 19 Grand Slam titles have come at Roland Garros and he’s lost only two matches at the event since his debut as an 18-year-old in 2005.
The 34-year-old has won the last three French Opens and is well on course for a fourth consecutive title. In this year’s event, he’s characteristically moved through the draw with minimum fuss, despite not having adequate clay-court preparation for the tournament unlike in previous years – coronavirus being responsible.
But he is the Clay King and he’s shown over the years that his form and class on the surface is matchless and unwavering. After soundly defeating Egor Gerasimov, Mackenzie MacDonald, Stefano Travaglia, and Sebastian Korda to reach the quarterfinals, Nadal faced the in-form Jannik Sinner in the quarters, but was barely troubled. He only had to navigate past a tight first set before securing a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Italian to reach the last four, where he will be facing Diego Schwartzman.
Nadal has been great so far, but Schwartzman will be a step up in quality for him on Friday.
The Argentine, who’s ranked 14 in the world, has been in superb form recently. He made a very deep run at the Italian Open last month, where he stunned Nadal in straight sets – 6-2, 7-5 – in the quarterfinals before going on to lose to Djokovic in the final. He’s kept up that form this fortnight, reaching the semis with the loss of just two sets.
The 28-year-old defeated two-time French Open finalist and reigning US Open champion, Dominic Thiem in five sets on Wednesday to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal. He will now come into this contest with Nadal brimming with confidence and with hopes that he can beat the King of Clay again.
Schwartzman’s 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Dominic Thiem in 5 hours and 8 minutes showed just how gritty and relentless the diminutive Argentine can be. He pulled a surprise by beating Thiem, who’s made the French Open final in the last two years, and could go on to frustrate Nadal on Friday.
After making the final of the clay-court Italian Open and beating a tournament favourite here, in Roland Garros, Schwartzman should be confident enough and good to win at least a set against Nadal.
Rafael Nadal vs Diego Schwartzman Stats
- Nadal owns a 98-2 win-loss record at the French Open, losing only to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 and to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals in 2015. He withdrew before the start of his third-round match in 2016.
- Nadal holds a weighty 9-1 head-to-head record over Schwartzman. Schwartzman’s only win came at the Italian Open last month.
- Both men have squared off once at the French Open — in the quarterfinals in 2018 — a match Nadal won in four sets.
- Nadal has won 19 Grand Slam titles. If he wins this French Open, he will equal Roger Federer’s record of 20.
Schwartzman looked very smart, doing well to dominate rallies and neutralize Nadal’s famous topsin, in his straight-sets win over Nadal on clay last month. Though Nadal had just returned to action after a six-month absence unlike Schwartzman who had competed at the US Open.
Nadal has improved now and has looked comfortable so far, but Schwartzman’s level hasn’t dropped. He’s still as sharp and smart, attacking aggressively and also defending well.
While Nadal’s expertise on clay should see him emerge victorious, Schwartzman should be good enough to trouble the Spaniard and take at least a set.
You can back Diego Schwartzman to win at least a set here or the match to be decided in four sets.