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Rafael Nadal Advances to 2022 French Open Men's Final After Alexander Zverev Injury

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 3, 2022

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal is one win away from his 14th French Open title after Alexander Zverev was forced to withdraw because of an ankle injury suffered in the second set of their semifinal match Friday at Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Nadal, who captured his record-setting 21st Grand Slam singles championship at the Australian Open in January, already owns five more Coupe des Mousquetaires trophies than any player in history as he heads into another French Open final.

Zverev was putting up a serious fight against The King of Clay before rolling over on his ankle deep in the second set. He left the court in a wheelchair for evaluation and returned with crutches to confirm he couldn't continue:

NBC Sports @NBCSports

Following an injury, Alexander Zverev returned to the court to a standing ovation and a special embrace with Rafael Nadal. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RolandGarros?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RolandGarros</a> <a href="https://t.co/3VPqOAD31x">pic.twitter.com/3VPqOAD31x</a>

They engaged in two highly competitive sets before the sudden end to the semifinal.

Everything that's made Nadal incredibly difficult to beat on the clay courts of Roland Garros was on full display in the opening set.

The 35-year-old Spanish superstar dropped his opening service game and spent most of the set playing from behind before finally getting back level at 4-4. He then fell behind 6-2 in the tiebreaker before winning five straight points en route to a 10-8 win.

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

It's the stare for us 😳<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RolandGarros?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RolandGarros</a> <a href="https://t.co/0kdXSHvdp1">pic.twitter.com/0kdXSHvdp1</a>

His ability to defend and willingness to fight for every point puts endless pressure on the opponent, and few over the years have been able to solve the problems he presents at the season's second Grand Slam.

The second set was a battle of the return game as the players combined for eight breaks of serve, and they were about to play another tiebreaker when Zverev suffered the ankle injury on the final point of the 12th game.

He immediately screamed in agony as he fell to the court. Nadal crossed the net to check on his opponent and lamented the "very sad" ending to the match in his post-match interview:

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

Feel better soon, <a href="https://twitter.com/AlexZverev?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlexZverev</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RolandGarros?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RolandGarros</a> <a href="https://t.co/llsywA21jY">pic.twitter.com/llsywA21jY</a>

Zverev had already recorded 40 winners when the injury occurred. It was the second straight appearance in the French Open semifinals for the 2021 Olympic gold medalist, who continues to seek his first Grand Slam title.

Meanwhile, Nadal wasn't at his most efficient on Friday, tallying more unforced errors (26) than winners (21), but his clutch play on the most important points gave him the lead before the match's unfortunate finish.

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

😒<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RolandGarros?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RolandGarros</a> <a href="https://t.co/Ih8kfNXLrs">pic.twitter.com/Ih8kfNXLrs</a>

The tournament's No. 5 seed advances to face either No. 8 Casper Ruud or No. 20 Marin Cilic in Sunday's championship match. He holds a 7-2 advantage over Cilic in their prior ATP Tour meetings, while it would be his first matchup with Ruud.

Nadal will be a sizable favorite regardless of who wins the second semifinal.

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