WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up French Open tips for a massive semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, who both claimed quarter-final upsets.
22:50 (AEST), Fri 3rd Jun @ Stade de Roland Garros, Paris
History: Played 9: Nadal 6 V Zverev 3
Last meeting: Italian Open, 2021 (QF): Nadal d Zverev 6-3 6-4
Final Thoughts: Rafael Nadal’s French Open story – one of the greatest in the history of sport – had another stirring chapter written in the 2022 quarter-finals. Novak Djokovic, the top seed, tournament favourite and the only player to beat the ‘King of Clay’ at Roland Garros since 2009, was subdued in a four-hour, four-set classic.
Fifth seed Nadal, battling injuries and backing up from a five-setter against Felix Auger-Aliassime, was the underdog against Djokovic. But he overcame the disappointment of failing to capitalise on a double-break in the second set to carve out a gutsy, brilliant 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 victory.
Rafa, who turns 36 today, is into his 37th grand slam semi-final. He has only been beaten at this stage seven times – and only once at the French Open, by Djokovic last year.
Alexander Zverev progressed to his fifth grand slam semi after upsetting ultra-hyped teenager Carlos Alcaraz 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-6. It hadn’t been the smoothest path to the quarters for the world No.3. He was forced to fight back from two sets down against unseeded Sebastian Baez in the second round.
Clay sensation Alcaraz loomed as a challenge Zverev was unlikely to overcome, but he played with patience and control – if not quite the ideal level of killer instinct – throughout.
Zverev chases slam breakthrough
The 25-year-old German is searching for his second berth in a grand slam final and maiden major title, having lost the 2020 US Open final. He lost in the semis at the French Open last year and heart-breaking fashion, coughing up a two-set lead to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Nadal has won six of the pair’s nine clashes and four of five on clay. But Zverev has beaten Nadal in three of their last four encounters. They met twice on clay in quick succession in 2021: Zverev prevailed in the Madrid quarters, before Nadal responded with a win in the Rome quarters.
The legendary Nadal has to be weary after two gruelling matches – but he is showing few signs of it. Talent has never been an issue for Zverev. But the psychological battle is his key to a boilover. Rafa will be pushed again, but expect him to come out on top.