Rafael Nadal battled back from a set down to beat Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in their rain-interruped French Open quarter-final on Thursday, edging closer to an 11th title in Paris.

Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro wept courtside after downing third seed Marin Cilic 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 on Thursday to set up a semi-final clash with Nadal.

The injured-plagued former US Open champion battled through in three hours and 50 minutes after the match had been delayed by rain on Wednesday to reach the last four at Roland Garros for the second time, but first in nine years. Top seed Simona Halep reached her third French Open final on Thursday with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over former champion Garbine Muguruza.

Twelve months ago, while Halep was crumbling to a defeat in the French Open final, Sloane Stephens was off the tour, attending the wedding of a friend in Ireland.

While Halep’s slump from a set and 3-0 up against Jelena Ostapenko at Roland Garros was in the full glare of the world’s media, Stephens’s own professional crisis was more private but just as devastating.

A foot injury – and then surgery – had put her career on ice for 10 months and her ranking had nosedived to 323 in the world.

Quotable quotes

“I will keep it for the final and after I will tell you.”

– Simona Halep after being asked the secret to playing a strong first set.

“It’s Simona’s third final in Roland Garros, she has a great level. She’s the favourite.”

– Garbine Muguruza expects Halep to finally break her Grand Slam title duck in her fourth final.

“I will play for the fans from all over the world, because I know that many are hoping me to win this Grand Slam finally.”

– Halep hoping to do her fans proud.

“I came here without big expectations, just seeing how my body feels match by match. Now I’m (in the) semi-finals, which means something great to me. So I have nothing to lose tomorrow. We’ll see what can I do against the king of clay.”

– Juan Martin del Potro almost didn’t play in Paris due to injury, but will take on Rafael Nadal in the last four on Friday.

“I am a human person.”

– Nadal responds to being asked why he still feels pressure on court.

“It’s an extremely difficult task to do. You have to take a lot of risks. So of course he’s the favourite. But nothing is impossible. But, you know, if he plays well, I think Rafa has a really good chance to win it this year again.”

– Robin Soderling, one of only two men to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, thinks the Spaniard can win the title for an 11th time.

“It was someone who made a loud (noise) before my serve, and I made double fault. That’s why I got angry with someone. I couldn’t find the right person. But I get closer to them, just asking who was it? But I’m still trying to find the right person.”

– Del Potro explains why he became angry at a member of the crowd.

“I’ll come here tomorrow, have a hit, have lunch here, go to my room, watch TV, wait till dinner, have dinner, go to sleep. It’s pretty boring. I wish there was something exciting to tell you, but it’s really not.”

– Sloane Stephens won’t be doing anything over the top before attempting to win a second Grand Slam title.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know why they ask every week, every week, every week, every day. Come on, they know the answer. So why they are asking every time?”

– Diego Schwartzman would rather people didn’t always ask him about his 5ft 7in (1.70m) frame.

“For me, the final of 2010? I was in the stadium. I was in South Africa.”

– Nadal witnessed his favourite World Cup moment live when Spain beat the Netherlands in the final.

Numbers up

9 – years since Del Potro last reached the semi-finals.

3 – times Halep has lost in a Grand Slam final. She’ll be hoping to make it fourth time lucky on Saturday.

74 – unforced errors made by Marin Cilic in his quarter-final exit.

41 – Madison Keys’s tally of unforced errors in her one-sided loss to Stephens.