| By Eric C. Peck
World number one Rafael Nadal returned to the courts of Roland Garros Thursday after rain shortened his quarterfinals encounter with the 11th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina Wednesday

World number one Rafael Nadal returned to the courts of Roland Garros Thursday after rain shortened his quarterfinals encounter with the 11th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina Wednesday, picking up where he left off, advancing to the semis with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory in Paris.

Nadal was down one set to Schwartzman, 4-6, 5-3, when play was suspended Wednesday, taking a 5-3 advantage in the second set before the match was postponed. He clinched the two points he needed as play resumed to even the score at a set apiece and rolled from there.

“It is fair to say the rain delay helped me yesterday, but not fair to say the conditions today helped me,” said Nadal of the multiple match delays. “The conditions today were the same for both. I played more aggressive and continued the level of intensity that I played with after the first stoppage, and in my opinion, the match changed”

Schwartzman did put a dent in Nadal’s armor, ending the Spaniard’s unbroken streak of sets won at the French Open at 37, just four away from Bjorn Borg’s record. Nadal moves into his 27th major semifinal overall, now having won 24 of 25 matches at Roland Garros.

“Rafa is a great player, so I needed more than tennis to try to stay on the court and keep doing a good job,” said Schwartzman. “I think I had a great match. Rafa was totally different guy yesterday, and today, the match changed a lot. He was playing better than me today.”

Up next for Nadal is another Argentine, the fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, a 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 winner Thursday over the number three seed, Croatian Marin Cilic. The two resumed their match Thursday, after rain delayed their Wednesday quarterfinal encounter with the two deadlocked at 6-6 (5-5). The win marks del Potro’s second appearance in the Roland Garros semifinals, having advanced to the semis back in 2009, when he fell to eventual winner Roger Federer.

Nadal holds a 9-5 lifetime advantage over del Potro, their most recent encounter in the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Open, a 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 win for Nadal.

“Del Potro has achieved great victories this year … he has fantastic potential,” said Nadal. “I have to play aggressively. If I play defensively and am not intense, I will be lost.”

Despite the outcome Friday between del Potro and Nadal, del Potro will rise from sixth to at least fourth in the ATP Men’s Singles Rankings. Del Potro is now 28-7 to date in 2018, including a 15-match winning streak and back-to-back titles at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel and the BNP Paribas Open.

“I thought that after nine years, I would play a different opponent, not Rafa or Roger,” said del Potro. “But all my semifinals in Grand Slams were against them. The last one at the U.S. Open, I lost against Rafa. In Wimbledon, I lost against Djokovic and here in Paris against Federer. It's a big challenge to play them in a Grand Slam. I think they show you just how good they are at playing because at a Grand Slam, after 10 years, they are fighting to win these kind of tournaments. It's amazing for the tennis world.”

 

Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck is Editor-in-Chief of Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at eric@litennismag.com