Nadal 'very sad' as Zverev suffers gruesome injury

 - Simon Cambers

Spaniard moves into 14th RG final as German third seed is forced to retire

Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, demi-finales, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Rafael Nadal reached the final of Roland-Garros for a record 14th time after third seed Alexander Zverev suffered a horrific-looking ankle injury deep in the second set.

The 13-time champion was leading 7-6(8), 6-6, having forced another tiebreak but in losing the point, Zverev rolled his ankle and had to be wheeled off the court.

The No.3 seed returned, a few minutes later, but was unable to continue and Nadal moved through to the final after a roller-coaster three-hour 12-minute battle in which he saved four set points in the opener and came from 2-4 down in the second.

Nadal will play the winner of the second semi-final between eighth seed Casper Ruud of Norway and former US Open champion Marin Cilic.

Here’s how it all happened.

Rafael Nadal , Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Messieurs, 1/2 Finale, Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Story of the match

Nadal led Zverev 6-3 from their previous meetings coming in but Zverev won three of their last four clashes, including one last year on clay in Madrid.

And having come through an emotional, exhausting battle with Novak Djokovic in the previous round, he knew it was unlikely to be easy.

And so it proved as Zverev broke the Nadal serve in the opening game, hardly the way to say happy 36th birthday to the 13-time champion.

With the roof closed due to rain, conditions were heavier than usual and as the set progressed, Nadal found it hard to get purchase on his forehand, looking for heavy topspin to get the ball up high but often seeing it fall into the wheelhouse of Zverev.

The German was also serving incredibly well, keeping Nadal at bay and stepping in to his +1 shot, firing winners on both sides. He moved ahead to 4-2 but Nadal broke back for 4-4 as Zverev faltered, a double fault when he was going for a big second serve betraying his nerves.

At 5-4, Nadal had three set points but Zverev saved them courageously, keeping up the attack. The two men then held to force a tiebreak and Zverev surged clear, giving himself four set points at 6-2.

It was then that the Nadal of the previous round, when he downed Djokovic in a four-hour plus epic, awoke. Zverev missed a volley by an inch and Nadal produced two stunning passes and levelled at 6-6.

At 7-6, Nadal had a fourth set point but couldn’t take it. At 8-7 he had another but couldn’t take it. Finally, at 9-8, he came up with another brilliant forehand pass on the run to take it.

Zverev looked emotionally spent as he sat in his chair while Nadal left court for a change of clothes and when Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set, it felt like the match was virtually over.

Rafael Nadal Roland-Garros 2022©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Nadal tried to put his foot down, becoming more aggressive but was missing and Zverev broke back.

A 44-shot rally, which he won when Zverev missed a backhand, put Nadal ahead again but once more, he was broken as the set reached 2-2.

From then on, the second set became an odd affair, mistakes from both men with both struggling to hold serve, especially Nadal.

Zverev broke for 4-2 only to double fault and hand the break back. The German then broke Nadal for the fourth straight time to go up 5-3. But serving for the set, he began with a double fault and though he led 30-15, he hit two more double faults to let Nadal back in again.

Finally, Nadal held serve for the first time, lifting both his arms up above as he put a volley away to level at 5-5.

Nadal then found another brilliant forehand pass to go up 0-30 but Zverev held and it was then Nadal’s turn to hold, which he did, but as he clinched the game, it was the yell of Zverev which caught everybody’s attention.

The German could not put any weight on his right foot and left the court but inevitably, the match was over. He came back onto court on crutches and the match was done.

Key stats

Zverev was serving incredibly well early on and Nadal had little answer to the German’s power. But as he always does, Nadal found a way to break the rhythm and he did it with the use of the drop shot.

He hit 19 in the first set and he hit 27 in all, keeping Zverev off balance and drawing him into the part of the court he doesn’t like to be in.

Nadal also had the upper hand in the 0-4 shot rallies, winning 52 points to 37 while Zverev had the edge in the 5-8 and 9+ rallies.

Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, demi-finale, Roland-Garros 2022©Philippe Montigny / FFT

What the players said

“Very tough and very sad for him, honestly, he was playing unbelievable tournament. I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam but for the moment he was very unlucky. The only thing is I’m sure he’s going to win not one, much more than one and I wish him all the best and a very fast recovery," said Nadal on court.

“Had been a super tough match, 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 at this super high level.

“Difficult to say a lot of things today in this situation. Of course, for me, being in the final of Roland-Garros one more time is a dream, without a doubt.

“But at the same time, to finish that way, I’ve been there in a small room with Sascha before we came back on court and to see him crying there is a very tough moment so all the best to him.”