Rafael Nadal Defeats Diego Schwartzman to Reach French Open Semifinals

Rafael Nadal’s streak may have ended, but he’s still extending other records at the French Open.

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star, the King of Clay, saw his 36-set winning streak end at Roland Garros on Wednesday, but he battled through to a record-extending 14th semifinal at the tournament.

Rafael Nadal

The 13-time champion improved to a 105-2 match record at the clay-court Grand Slam following a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Argentine 10th seed Diego Schwartzman in two hours and 45 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Nadal, who is bidding to capture a record 21st major crown, lost the final three games of the second set in front of 5,000 spectators, but regrouped in the third set and from a 3-4 deficit put his foot down to win nine straight games, and 20 of 21 service points in a row.

“I started badly in the second set, then I was able to come back,” said Nadal. “But at 4-4, returning with the wind, I played a bad game and hit a double fault in the next game. I needed to play more aggressively and I did so throughout the rest of the match. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to.”

He will next challenge World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion with 18 major trophies who beat ninth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini, in Friday’s semi-finals.

Nadal trails Djokovic 28-29 in their legendary ATP Head2Head series, but Nadal won their last match in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in Rome.

Nadal has compiled a 23-3 match record on the season, which also includes the Barcelona Open title (d. Tsitsipas). He is through to his 35th Grand Slam semifinal and is 26-0 once he reaches the Roland Garros semifinals.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Defeats Federico Delbonis at French Open to Reach First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinals

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal…

The 22-year-old Spanish tennis player battled past Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 56 minutes on Sunday at the French Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina, who overcame Casper Ruud in a mammoth five-set battle in the third round, hit 42 winners and broke Delbonis seven times on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to set up a clash with sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

Davidovich Fokina improved to 19-10 on the season with the victory over 30-year-old Delbonis.

He previously reached the fourth round at the US Open in September (l. Zverev) and advanced to the semifinals on clay at the Estoril Open (l. Ramos-Vinolas) in May to reach a career-high No. 45 in the ATP rankings.

In a lively start where both players broke serve, Davidovich Fokina moved ahead, reeling off four straight games to lead 5-3 as errors started to fly from the Argentine’s racquet.

The Spaniard, who had spent ten hours and 14 minutes on court ahead of this fourth round match, won 46 per cent of points on Delbonis’ first serve, dominating from the baseline as he showed no signs of fatigue to win the opener.

The Spaniard then raced into a 5-1 lead in the second as he won 93 per cent of points (14/15) on his first serve. Although the youngster displayed some nerves, with Delbonis closing back to 5-4, the Argentine could not convert two break opportunities to level at 5-5. Davidovich Fokina capitalized on his third set point with a forehand winner to move further clear.

Lefthander Delbonis hit his heavy forehand into the Spaniard’s backhand with more success throughout the third set though, and battled back from a break down to gain a foothold in the contest. However, Davidovich Fokina made 82 per cent of his first serves in the fourth and used the drop shot to great effect against his tiring opponent, making the crucial breakthrough at 3-3. He then fended off four break points to serve out the contest to extend his stay in France.

Delbonis lost just eight games in his third-round encounter with Fabio Fognini to move to 19 clay-court wins for the season. However, the 30-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as a qualifier (l. Opelka), struggled to deal with the Spaniard’s power on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Novak Djokovic to Claim 10th Italian Open Title

Make than 10 for Rafael Nadal

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated Novak Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 to earn a record-extending 10th Italian Open title on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal

With whipping forehands that produced an average of 54 revolutions per second — to Djokovic’s 45 — Nadal’s biggest weapon was in top form.

“I have been playing better and better with my forehand the last couple of weeks, getting to the confidence point,” Nadal said. “That’s a huge improvement for me, very important shot. Especially on clay, it [gives] me confidence.”

The title reestablished Nadal as the overwhelming favorite for the French Open, where he’ll be aiming for his 14th title starting in two weeks.

But Nadal preferred to focus on his achievement in Rome — at least for the moment.

“To have this trophy in my hands for the 10th time is something hard to believe,” Nadal said, recalling how he won his first title at the Foro Italico in 2005 as an 18-year-old, when he beat Guillermo Coria in a match lasting more than five hours.

“Now, 16 years later, to play in the final again is incredible,” Nadal said in Italian during the trophy presentation. “It’s difficult to describe. Without a doubt this is one of the most important places in my career.”

Three forehand winners helped Nadal produce the decisive break in the third set, when Djokovic’s energy level appeared to dip.

The top-ranked Djokovic spent nearly five hours on court Saturday, when he had to rally for a rain-delayed quarterfinal victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas before winning another three-setter over local favorite Lorenzo Sonego in the semifinals.

Nadal played only once Saturday, beating Reilly Opelka in 1½ hours.

“He managed to break my serve and played better. That’s it,” Djokovic said. “I had my shot to win it, but wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t feel fatigue. Actually, I was very happy with the way I felt on the court. I could have gone for another few hours.”

It was the 57th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic, which is the most matches between two men in the Open era. It was their ninth meeting in Rome, where they have played more than anywhere else.

Djokovic now holds a slim edge in the all-time series 29-28, while Nadal holds a 6-3 advantage in Rome overall and 4-2 in Rome finals.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Reilly Opelka to Reach Italian Open Men’s Final

Rafael Nadal is hoping to extend his record…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star, who has won the Italian Open a record nine times, will seek his tenth title on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal ended the surprise clay-court run of big-serving American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4 in their semifinal match on Saturday.

“I played the match that I had to play,” Nadal said. “I had two breaks [in] two sets. That’s a positive thing for me. [Being] in the final again here means a lot.”

A day earlier, Nadal snapped a three game losing streak against Alexander Zverev in straight sets.

“In terms of preparation for Roland Garros, I consider the job done,” Nadal said. “Tomorrow is not at all preparation. … [It’s] a final, an important one, and I want to be competitive.”

Nadal will play World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the men’s final. Nadal and the Serbian player have met an Open-era record 56 times, with Djokovic leading the series 29-27. Their previous meeting came in last year’s French Open final, where Nadal won in straight sets. It will be the sixth time they meet in the Rome final, with Nadal holding a 3-2 edge.

“Definitely my biggest rival of all time,” Djokovic said. “Even after all we have been through in our careers, there is still this excitement when we have to face each other. That’s going to be the case as long as we play each other on this level.”

Djokovic has five titles at the Foro Italico to Nadal’s nine.

Rafael Nadal Snaps Losing Streak Against Alexander Zverev to Advance to Italian Open Semifinals

Rafael Nadal’s skid is over…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star ended a run of three straight losses to Alexander Zverev with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win to reach the Italian Open semifinals on Friday.

Rafael Nadal

Zverev beat Nadal in straight sets at the same stage in Madrid a week ago and their latest meeting was also one-sided.

Nadal raced to 4-0 in the first set and saved all eight break points he faced in the second.

“I played more solid than Madrid. Conditions are different,” Nadal said, alluding to the fact that the high-altitude of the Spanish capital allowed Zverev to dominate more with his serve. “Here are little bit more normal conditions. I was able to control a little bit more.”

Nadal, aiming for a record-extending 10th Rome title, will next face big-serving American Reilly Opelka, who reached his first Masters semifinals by edging Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-5, 7-6 (2).

Diego Schwartzman to Face Novak Djokovic in First Group Stage Match at Maiden ATP Finals

Diego Schwartzman is preparing for the big dance…

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tennis player, who clinched the final spot at the prestigious season-ending ATP Finals, will play ATP Tour World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in his first group stage match.

Diego Schwartzman

Schwartzman, competing in his first-ever ATP Finals, will be the first Argentine player to compete at the tournament since Juan Martin del Potro in 2013.

Schwartzman is the eighth singles player from Argentina to feature in the 50-year history of the tournament, following in the footsteps of 1974 titlist Guillermo Vilas (1974-77, ’79-82), Jose-Luis Clerc (1980-83), Guillermo Coria (2003-05), 2005 champion David Nalbandian (2003, ’05-06), Gaston Gaudio (2004-05), Mariano Puerta (2005) and 2009 runner-up del Potro (2008-09, ’12-13).

Schwartzman joins fellow debutant Andrey Rublev of Russia, alongside former qualifiers  Djokovic of Serbia, Spain’s Rafael NadalDominic Thiem of Austria, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the 2020 singles field.

There will be four players aged 24 and under at the ATP Finals for the second straight year. The last time this happened in back-to-back years was in 2008-09.

Schwartzman broke into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time at No. 8 on 12 October after a run to his first Grand Slam championship semi-final at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). A few weeks earlier, the Buenos Aires resident beat  Nadal en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (l. to Djokovic).

As the first Argentine in the Top 10 since del Potro in May 2019, Schwartzman also finished runner-up at two ATP 250 events in a reduced 2020 season — at the Cordoba Open (l. to Garin) in February and at the bett1HULKS Championship runner-up in Cologne (l. to Zverev) in October.

At 5’7”, Schwartzman is the shortest player in the Top 10 since 5’6″ Harold Solomon, whose last week in the Top 10 began on 27 July 1981.

Diego Schwartzman Upsets ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open Quarterfinals

Diego Schwartzman has taken down the King of Clay in his ‘best match ever”…

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tennis player defeated former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open on Saturday.

Diego Schwartzman

Nadal, a nine-time champion in Rome, had never lost to the 15th-ranked Schwartzman in nine previous meetings. But Schwartzman dictated the baseline rallies and produced a series of drop-shot winners as Nadal uncharacteristically made unforced errors and struggled to get his first serve into play, as he played in his first tournament in seven months.

For two months during the lockdown, Nadal said, he didn’t touch a tennis racket.

“It’s a completely special year — an unpredictable year,” Nadal said. “At least I played three matches.’

While Nadal won his opening two matches this week in straight sets, his rustiness showed from the start against Schwartzman.

Nadal committed nearly twice as many unforced errors as Schwartzman, 30 to 17, and won only 29 of 63 points on his serve — resulting in five breaks.

“Losing that many serves, you can’t expect to win a match,” Nadal said. “So something that I have to fix. I know how to do it.”

Nadal, who chose not to play in the US Open because of travel concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, had not played a tournament since winning a title in Acapulco, Mexico, in February. He now has one week to regroup before he attempts to win a record-extending 13th French Open title. Roland Garros starts next weekend.

“I’m going to keep working and keep practicing with the right attitude and I’m going to try to give [myself] a chance to be ready,” Nadal said.

Schwartzman came up with a series of clutch shots, perhaps none better than during the second game of the second set when he won a 17-shot rally to save a break point by running down a drop shot and passing Nadal with a forehand that landed on the line.

“It was my best match ever,” Schwartzman said.

Rafael Nadal to Face Pablo Carreno Busta in His Return to ATP Tour at the Italian Open

Rafael Nadal is heading back to competitive tennis play…

The 34-year-old tennis star will make his return to the ATP Tour against US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta at the Italian Open in Rome.

Rafael Nadal

In his first appearance since the ATP Tour suspension in March, the nine-time titlist will need to be at the top of his game when he meets his countryman for the sixth time in their head-to-head series (Nadal leads 5-0).

Carreno Busta has made a strong return to the ATP Tour, reaching his second US Open semi-final earlier this week. The Spaniard also lifted his maiden doubles trophy at the Western & Southern Open last month.

Nadal and Carreno Busta most recently met in the third round of this year’s Australian Open, with Nadal winning in straight sets. If he gets past Carreno Busta, he could meet Western & Southern Open finalist Milos Raonic in the third round. Nadal shares the bottom quarter of the draw with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and US Open quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev.

The five-time year-end World No. 1 enters Rome with a 13-3 record this year. At his most recent event in February, Nadal did not drop a set en route to his 85th tour-level trophy at the Acapulco Open in Mexico.

Chasing his 10th title at the Foro Italico, the Spaniard will look to add to his 61-6 record at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Nadal is currently on a 10-match winning streak in Rome, having won the past two editions of the tournament. The 35-time ATP Masters 1000 winner won three-set battles against Alexander Zverev in the 2018 championship match and Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.

If Nadal triumphs for the third straight year in Rome, he will capture a 10th trophy at a single event for the fourth time in his career. He owns 12 French Open trophies and has won 11 crowns at both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona OpenRoger Federer is the only other player to have reached double digits at a single ATP Tour event in the Open Era. He owns 10 trophies at the Noventi Open in Halle and the Swiss Indoors Basel.

Rafael Nadal Outlasts Alexander Zverev for His Record-Extending Eighth Italian Open Title

Rafael Nadal is still the King of Clay

The 31-year-old Spanish tennis star profited from a timely rain delay at a break when he was down in the final set to hold off defending champion and No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

Rafael Nadal

It was a record-extending eighth Italian Open title for Nadal, who’ll head to Roland Garros as the new world No. 1.

Nadal surrendered top spot in the ATP world rankings to Roger Federer last week after Nadal’s Madrid Open quarterfinal defeat to Dominic Thiem — the only blight on an otherwise impeccable clay-court season this year.

However, Nadal will return to the summit when the latest ATP rankings are published on Monday after he overcame world No. 3 Zverev in a thrilling finale on the Foro Italico’s Campo Centrale.

Billed as a clash between the two current top-form players on clay, Sunday’s final did not disappoint. After two hotly-contested semifinals on Saturday — Nadal saw off long-time rival Novak Djokovic while Zverev smashed a racket in anger during his victory over Marin Cilic — the championship match ebbed and flowed throughout.

Despite dropping serve in the opening game, victory looked like a foregone conclusion for 10-time French Open champion Nadal as he blistered through the first set in 33 minutes to put his young opponent on the back foot.

However, Zverev produced a phenomenal set of tennis to force the decider. The German changed tactics in the second set, becoming much more aggressive on the front foot and overwhelming Nadal with an array of powerful strokes.

The 21-year-old secured a double-break to move 5-0 ahead. After Nadal prevented the bagel, he leveled the match in style with a ferocious backhand winner down the line.

Rising star Zverev’s confidence grew further as he immediately broke Nadal at the start of the third, before the match’s turning point came in agonizing fashion.

With Zverev leading 3-1 in the final set, rain intervened and caused an hour’s delay in play. It proved pivotal, allowing Nadal precious time to regain his composure and hit back immediately after the restart.

Nadal rattled off four consecutive games — including two successive breaks of serve — to move 5-3 ahead before serving out a fifth to secure his eighth Italian crown and send out a warning to his rivals ahead of the year’s second grand slam.

Suarez Navarro Defeats Simona Halep to Reach Italian Open Final

Carla Suarez Navarro is one win away from an Italian affair to remember…

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis player beat Romania’s Simona Halep 2-6 6-3 7-5 at the Italian Open to reach her ninth career final.

Carla Suarez Navarro

“It was such a tough match from a physical standpoint,” Suarez Navarro told SuperTennis TV. “The biggest improvement I’ve made this year is in my mind.”

Suarez Navarro, who leads the tour this year in wins with 31, won the opening two games but once Halep settled down she started to dominate the rallies with her precise ground strokes.

Halep reeled off six straight games to take the opening set.

An easy miss off of a bounced overhead in the third game of the following set seemed to rattle Halep’s confidence as she became more tentative, especially on her forehand.

Suarez Navarro took advantage to take the lead as Halep’s frustration became clearly visible after she cracked her racket in distress in the sixth game.

With more time to hit, the Spaniard forced a decider repeatedly running Halep around the court with her breath-taking one-handed backhand.

Neither player could hold serve in the first eight games of the decider before Halep led to lead 5-4.

Suarez Navarro then got her service game together and after breaking again to lead 6-5, finally got over the line with her third match point.

“Her style is to hit the ball very high. It disturbs me, and I couldn’t hit anymore in the third set,” Halep said.

She’ll next face two-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova, who reached the final by overpowering qualifier Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Russian matchup.