Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final on Friday after Alexander Zverev was forced to quit their semi-final after suffering a horror right ankle injury.
Zverev had to leave the court in a wheelchair after turning his ankle trailing 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 after more than three hours of play.
After screaming in anguish, a tearful Zverev was helped from the court by medics.
Minutes later, the 25-year-old returned to the court on crutches and conceded the match.
“It’s very tough and very sad for him. He was playing an unbelievable tournament and he’s a very good colleague on the tour,” said Nadal.
“I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam. For the moment, he was very unlucky. I’m sure he’ll win not one, but much more than one. I wish him all the best.
“It had been a super tough match. Over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set. It’s one of the biggest challenges on the tour when he’s playing like he did today.”
He added: “For me, to be in the final of Roland Garros is a dream, without a doubt, but at the same time, for it to finish that way... I have been there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that – I wish him all the best.”
Nadal, chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title, will play either Marin Cilic or Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final.
— via ATP
- The 13- time champion is now 7-1 when playing on his birthday at Roland Garros, with the only defeat coming against Djokovic in 2015.
- Nadal is the second-oldest men’s singles finalist in tournament history (since 1925). If he improves to 14-0 in Roland Garros finals on Sunday, he will eclipse countryman Andres Gimeno as the oldest champion
- Coming off his record 21st Grand Slam title, Nadal will now hope to sweep the Australian Open and Roland Garros in the same year for the first time
Until the dramatic end of the match, Zverev had been pushing Nadal all the way.
In a rollercoaster, 91-minute first set, Zverev broke in the opening game before Nadal levelled at 4-4.
The Spaniard, dripping with sweat under the closed roof, saw three set points come and go in the 10th game as the German’s all-or-nothing hitting kept him in the match.
Nadal, celebrating his 36th birthday Friday, then saved four set points in a knife-edge tiebreak, one of them off a spectacular running crosscourt forehand.
A blistering forehand pass gave him the opener on a sixth set point.
Zverev, playing in the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the second successive year, hit 25 winners and 26 unforced errors.
The second set was a bizarre one, punctuated by eight breaks of serve. When Nadal broke for 2-1, he did so on the back of an exhausting 44-shot rally.
Nadal becomes the second oldest man to make the final in Paris after 37-year-old Bill Tilden who was runner-up in 1930.
Victory saw Nadal, who knocked out world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, take his record at the French Open to 111 wins and just three losses.
If he wins on Sunday, he would be the tournament’s oldest champion, eclipsing 34-year-old compatriot Andres Gimeno who took the title in 1972.
Nadal has made his 30th Grand Slam final despite his own doubts over his long-term future in the sport.
A chronic left foot injury has forced him to admit that any match may be the last of his record-breaking French Open career.
He needed over four hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets in the last-16 and then required another four hours to defeat Djokovic in four sets.
Inputs from AFP