Nadal-Zverev, the highlight of Friday’s semifinals in Paris. Photo Anne-Christine POUJOULAT and Thomas SAMSON / AFP
This Friday the men’s semifinals will be played at Roland Garros and, on his 36th birthday, Rafael Nadal will be looking for a victory that will bring him one step closer to his 14th title at the Parisian Grand Slam. The Spaniard, number five in the world, will face German Alexander Zverev, third in the standings, in a duel that will be played no earlier than 9:45 am in Argentina. Shortly after, not before 12:30, the Norwegian Casper Ruudeighth in the standings, and the Croatian Marin Cilic, 23rd, will define the second finalist.
Due to the weight of his history in the French capital, Nadal starts as a favorite in his semifinal. More after scoring an epic quarter-final victory against Serbian Novak Djokovic, number one in the world.
Rafa, who is looking to extend his record for the greatest Grand Slam winner in history (now set at 21), has not made it to Paris at his best, having skipped much of the European slow-pitch tour to recover from a fracture. in the rib to point out, which suffered at Indian Wells. In view of the big dust event of the season, he has only played two tournaments: Madrid (he fell in the quarter-finals) and Rome (in the second round). To this lack of filming, was added the constant pain he feels in his left foot due to that chronic and desperate injury that has afflicted him since 2005.
However, like every year, as he descended on the orange fields of the Bois de Boulogne, he seemed to receive an injection of extra strength and confidence. Thus, he made it through his first three games without giving up sets; he passed a tough test in the round of 16, beating the Canadian in five sets Felix Auger-Aliassime; and in the quarter-finals he celebrated that unforgettable victory in the 59th chapter of his history against Djokovic.
After that match, many said that his consecration was already a fact, but he assured him: “I haven’t won anything yet, I just gave myself the opportunity to play another semifinal at Roland Garros. Another great one. challenge is coming. “
Is that Nadal knows that, with his bruised foot, anything can happen. Especially since his next obstacle will be Zverev, who will play much more than the passage to the final.
After the defeats of Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev (lost in the round of 16 against Cilic), the German was left with a unique opportunity: to reach number one for the first time. But to do that, he has to win the title in Paris.
Zverev, 25, arrives in the semifinals with confidence, having lost in the quarter-finals to Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, the current player of the circuit. And due to the strength of his serve and the strength of his backhand, he is a rival who could make Nadal very uncomfortable. Furthermore, of the three games won in the past against the Majorcan (he is 3-6 in direct clashes), one was on clay, in the quarter-finals of Rome 2021.
The Hamburg native will play his second consecutive semifinal at Roland Garros (lost to Tsitsipas last year) and wants to qualify for the second time in a Grand Slam final, after the 2020 US Open, lost to Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Ruud-Cilic, the semi-final that no one expected
The winner of the clash between Nadal and Zverev, will compete in the final against the winner of the semifinals they will play Casper Ruud (8th) and Marin Cilic (23rd), a clash that no one expected in this phase of the Grand Slam of France.
The 23-year-old Norwegian doesn’t give much to talk about, neither for having a spectacular match on the pitch nor off, but he is the player with the most wins on clay since 2020 (864) and the most titles on this surface (7, two in Buenos Aires. Aires, in 2020 and 2022). This year is the fifth with the highest number of games won on this type of pitch, surpassed only by Nadal, Alcaraz, Tsitsipas and Zverev. But it might work against him that he will play his first semi-finals of a Grand Slam.
Precisely, the great advantage of Cilic is the experience at this level. The Croatian, champion of the US Open 2014, will play the semifinal of a “big” for the sixth time, after becoming the fifth active player on Wednesday to reach that instance in the four majors, along with Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Although the last was more than four years ago, in Australia 2018.
After a few seasons of poor results, Cilic has rediscovered his tennis and, in Paris, he is good. After losing Medvedev in the round of 16, he defeated another Russian in the quarter-finals and finished in the top 10, Andrea Rublev (7th). In that match, one of the keys to him was his powerful serve of him, a blow that will also hurt his opponent a lot.
Ruud, the first tennis player of his country to the semifinals of Roland Garros, eliminated the Dane in the quarter-finals Runa Holger (19 years old and great revelation of the race), which he beat in four sets after three hours and 15 minutes.
The Norwegian, who won the title in Geneva before arriving in Paris, leads the record of 2-0 against the Croatian, which he beat in the round of 16 in Rome 2020 and in the second round in Toronto 2021.
Source AFP and EFE