Rafael Nadal Now One Win From 22nd Grand Slam Title After Alexander Zverev Suffers Horrific Ankle Injury
Rafael Nadal is now in position to win his 14th French Open title and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam crown, but this is not the way he wanted to get there.The Spanish legend advanced to Sunday’s Roland Garros final after Alexander Zverev suffered a horrific right ankle injury and had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair towards the end of the second set. He later came out on crutches and embraced Nadal, as the Spaniard patted his face in encouragement. Nadal then moved to help pack up Zverev’s tennis bag.With Nadal serving at 7-6(8), 5-6, 40-30 he slapped a forehand up the line that Zverev raced to retrieve but has he hit it he crashed hard with a right ankle injury and screamed in pain. Zverev was later seen leaving the facility on crutches and with his right foot in a boot.Well, very tough, no? And very said for him,” Nadal told Mats Wilander on court. “Honestly, he was playing unbelievable tournament. Yeah, he’s a very good colleague on the tour.I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam. But for the moment he was very unlucky, no? And the only thing that I am sure is that he gonna win not one, much more than one, so I wish him all the best and very fast recoveryThe match lasted 3 hours, 3 minutes before the injury and looked like it could have been headed for 5 or 6 hours.Have been a super tough match,” said Nadal, now an otherworldly 111-3 at Roland Garros. “Over three hours and we even didn’t finish the second set, no? So it’s one of the biggest challenges on the tour today when he’s playing at this super high level, to play against him.Of course, for me, as everybody knows, be in the final of Roland Garros one more time, it’s a dream without a doubt. But at the same time that finish that way, I have been there in the small room with Sascha before we came back out on court. To see him crying there, it’s a very tough moment. So all the best to him and all the team.”With the win, Nadal, who improved to 7-1 on his birthday, will play in his 14th French Open final Sunday against 23-year-old Casper Ruud of Norway, who beat Marin Cilic, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, in the second semifinal. Ruud, the first Norwegian man to reach a major final, and Nadal have never played.Nadal, now 36, is 13-0 in French Open finals and is one win from his 14th crown.To put that in perspective, Pete Sampras won 14 total majors during his Hall of Famer career and he is considered one of the greatest to ever play the game. Still, his 14 have long been eclipsed by Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who own a combined 61 major singles titles.Afterfor his record-setting 21st major title, the King of Clay can now push his lead over Federer and Djokovic to 22-20 if he wins in Sunday’s finalPARIS — Rafael Nadal advanced to his 14th French Open final Friday under conditions no champion wants, with his opponent, third-ranked Alexander Zverev, suffering what appeared to be a significant injury late in the second set.Nadal, who was celebrating his 36th birthday, rushed to the opposite side of the net to check on Zverev, 25, who howled in pain the moment his right foot buckled outward at a severe angle while he chased down a ball on the slippery red clay court’s baseline.The capacity crowd at 15,000-seat Court Philippe-Chatrier fell silent amid Zverev’s anguished wails, and a trainer was quick to rush to his assistance.Zverev, the 2020 U.S. Open runner-up, was seeking his second career appearance in a Grand Slam final. He sobbed as he was helped up from the court and taken off in a wheelchair for medical evaluation.After a few minutes’ pause in the action, Zverev returned to the court on crutches. Nadal walked beside him as Zverev reached up to shake the chair umpire’s hand, and his retirement from the match was announced.The two players embraced. And Zverev acknowledged the cheers of the crowd, which had been unabashedly pro-Nadal throughout, by raising one crutch at a time while Nadal gathered his opponents’ belongings and packed his bag at his courtside chair.Zverev’s retirement sent Nadal into Sunday’s final, in which he will face eighth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway, who defeated 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia to reach his first Grand Slam final, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.The Ruud-Cilic match was delayed for 13 minutes during the third set when a French climate activist rushed onto the court and attached herself to the net with metal wires and glue, according to the French Tennis Federation. She was wearing a T-shirt with the message “We have 1028 days left” and was eventually carried away by four security guards and handed over to the police.Nadal’s record at Roland Garros, where he won his first French Open championship at age 19, in 2005, improved to 111-3. At stake Sunday is a chance to extend his men’s record haul of Grand Slam titles to 22, with his rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer knotted at 20 apiece.We are colleagues,” Nadal said of Zverev during a somber post-match news conference. “[To] see a colleague on the tour like this, even if for me it’s a dream be in the final of Roland Garros, of course that way is not the way that we want it to be. . . . If you are human, you should feel very sorry for a colleague.No further update was given on Zverev’s condition.With the Philippe-Chatrier roof deployed on a warm, rainy afternoon, the humidity was thick when the Nadal-Zverev match got underway.What followed was a sweat-soaked slugfest. After 3 hours 13 minutes, the first two sets hadn’t been completed, putting the proceedings on a seven-hour pace, had it gone the five-set distance.the world No. 1 and his greatest rival, in the quarterfinals.Having slogged over eight hours in those two matches alone, Nadal took the court Friday amid questions about his stamina in addition to preexisting questions about his health.He suffered a cracked rib during a hard-court tournament in March. He is also battling a long-term degenerative condition in his left foot that causes chronic pain. To manage it, Nadal is accompanied at Roland Garros this year by his doctor, whose treatments are enabling him to compete.But in the first, his racket flew out of his hand and landed behind him after one wild swing mistakenly sent a ball zipping past the chair umpire until it landed 10 feet wide of the court. Later, an errant backhand let Nadal break for the first time, making it 4-all and sending red-and-yellow Spanish flags flapping in the stands.In the opening tiebreaker, Zverev led 6-2 for four set points. But Nadal erased them all, including one by sprinting to his left, ending up wide of the doubles alley, to somehow conjure up a cross-court forehand passing winner at an unbelievable angle. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. He probably had no business getting to Zverev’s sharp volley, let alone fashioning that short of a response.And yet, that is what Nadal does, so often, to so many opponents. He hangs in there. He never takes a point off. He plays each shot as if it might be his very last.Been that way since he was a teen. Why stop now that he’s in his mid-The only older men’s finalist in Paris was Bill Tilden, the runner-up at 37 in 1930. The oldest champion so far was Andres Gimeno, who was 34 in 1972.Nadal, who first won the championship at Roland Garros in his debut at age 19, has said in recent days that he can’t be sure whether each match might be his last at the French Open. His left foot is the primary reason for that pessimism.All the sacrifices, and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing,” Nadal said, “really make sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournament.Nadal, who has dealt off and on with a foot injury since 2005, also went off court. He was there while Zverev received medical attention. Nadal came back, and soon after the German re-entered the court on crutches to shake the chair umpire’s hand and hug Nadal.See him crying there is a very tough moment,” said Nadal, who has practiced with Zverev many times. “See a colleague on the tour like this, even if for me it’s a dream be in the final of Roland Garros, of course that way is not the way that we want it to be.”Zverev posted a video on social media hours later.Looks like I have a very serious injury, but the medical team, the doctors are still checking on it, and we’ll keep you updated,” he said.Nadal and Zverev went toe to toe in the first two, error-filled, serve-breaking sets.I was not able to push him back,” Nadal said of the 6-foot-6 Zverev. “He was able to hit a clean ball all the time, so [I] was surviving, a lot of surviving moments during that match.”Nadal survived to play at least one more day in his legendary Roland Garros career. He has spoken this week of not knowing when his final match in Paris will be. On Friday, he said that he would trade the title on Sunday for a healthy foot long-term, though he said he is feeling physically OK at the moment.Even if all the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournament,” he said.The foot pain had him considering retirement before this season. Then he won the Australian Open in January for his 21st major singles title, breaking his tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the men’s career record.He had a less desirable lead-up to the French Open, failing to win a clay-court event this spring and saying last month regarding his foot, “What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know. What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now.”Now, after beating Djokovic in a four-set quarterfinal and advancing past the injured Zverev on his 36th birthday, Nadal is the oldest French Open men’s singles finalist in 92 years. He can become the oldest men’s singles champion in tournament history.I played, I fighted,” he said Friday. “I did all the things possible to give myself at least a chance to be where I am.”The final is on the 17th anniversary of his first French Open titleBut Zverev was unable to continue after badly rolling his ankle running after a forehand at 7-6(8), 6-6.Nadal raced to his opponent’s side of the baseline right away, and the German was eventually helped off the court in a wheelchair.Nadal, whose own storied career has been plagued by both chronic and acute injuries, commiserated with the 25-year-old and wished him a speedy recovery.It’s not easy and beautiful to talk after what happened,” said Nadal, who was by Zverev’s behind the scenes as the German was getting scans done to invesitage the extent of his injury.Only thing that I can say is I hope he’s not too bad. Hopefully it’s just the normal thing when you turn your ankle, and hopefully nothing’s broken.”It’s a feeling that Nadal knows all too well. According to ATP notes, the last player to retire in the final or semi-final of a Grand Slam was Nadal himself, when the snake-bitten Spaniard was unable to continue against Juan Martin del Potro in their 2018 US Open semi-final due to knee pain. It was another blow for Nadal, who had started the season with a 20-0 record, including a 21st Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open, but was halted by a cracked rib suffered in the Indian Wells final. That injury sidelined him for weeks leading up to Roland-Garros, and he had been approaching his best level once again when the foot became a factor againNadal revealed that he was much more surprised by reaching the Melbourne final than this weekend’s final in Paris; he had also been struggling with the foot during the off-season, which required surgery and left him with little time to prepare for the start of the season.I was not very positive after [Rome] about my foot, but I was positive that I will be able to play here,” Nadal said. “And here I am. I played, I fighted, I did all the things possible to give myself at least a chance to be where I am.Happy of course to be able to give myself another chance to play on second Sunday here in the final of Roland-Garros. That means a lot to me.And even [with] all the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, it really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournamentAfter losing the first set 7-6 (8) in a tie-break, Zverev was leading 6-5 in the second set of the semifinal match when the German twisted his ankle reaching for a forehand shot. Zverev immediately fell and screamed in agony, while grabbing at his right ankle.The 25-year-old had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair, before eventually coming back out on crutches to address the crowd. The spectators gave Zverev a raucous ovation as he shook the chair umpire’s hand and hugged Nadal.As a result of the injury, Nadal was victorious and continues his quest for a 14th title at Roland Garros and a record-extending 22nd grand slam title. On Sunday he will face Norway’s Casper Ruud, who defeated Croatian Marin Cilic in the semifinal 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to advance to his first career grand slam final.Things got strange during that semifinal.Midway through the third set, a spectator at the Court Philippe Chatrier rushed the court and appeared to tie herself to the netThe protester peacefully knelt and was wearing a white shirt with a message in black ink on the front and the back. Both players were escorted off the court while the individual was removed by security.