The king of Roland Garros needs to beat his third top-10 seed in a row to reach the 2022 French Open men's singles final.
Rafael Nadal outdueled top seed Novak Djokovic on Tuesday to set up a semifinal showdown with Alexander Zverev, the No. 5 seed. The Spaniard also ousted No. 9 seed Felix Auger Aliassime in the round of 16.
Nadal is the only man left in the French Open field with multiple major victories to his name, and he is the only player left with a major championship win in the last seven years.
Zverev is a four-time Grand Slam semifinalist and one-time finalist, but he has been unable to break through for a title yet. The German faces one of the toughest challenges in men's tennis on Friday against Nadal on clay.
Marin Cilic holds the advantage in experience over his semifinal opponent. He is appearing in his sixth Grand Slam semifinal following his win over Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.
Casper Ruud will be making his first major semifinal appearance against the Croatian. The No. 8 seed has played well in Paris, but Friday's match brings a new challenge.
No. 3 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 5 Rafael Nadal
Nadal's lower seed is the only thing not in his favor for the semifinal clash with Zverev.
The 13-time French Open winner proved he is still the man to beat at Roland Garros when he took down Djokovic in four sets on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old has played nine sets in his last two matches. The length of those contests may hurt the veteran a bit, but Zverev also played four sets against Carlos Alcaraz on Tuesday. Nadal and Zverev both won their matches in a fourth-set tiebreak.
Zverev must be at his best to take down Nadal, but that has not been the case for parts of this tournament. He was pushed to five sets in the second round by Sebastian Baez and has played in four tiebreaks over the last three rounds.
The 25-year-old owns a single win over Nadal on clay after beating the 21-time major champion at the Madrid Masters last year.
However, the German has not defeated the Spaniard at any major. He lost in five sets at the 2017 Australian Open in their only previous meeting in a Grand Slam tournament.
Nadal will be viewed as the favorite because of his lengthy track record at Roland Garros, and he will be more than familiar with recovering from a tough match in the second week of a major.
At the Australian Open, he powered through 14 sets over the last three rounds to claim the first major title of 2022. He beat Denis Shapovalov, Matteo Berrettini and Daniil Medvedev in that stretch.
Zverev might push Nadal to four or five sets, but until he proves he can beat the clay-court legend in France, he will be the underdog.
No. 8 Casper Ruud vs. No. 20 Marin Cilic
Cilic has the edge in major experience over Ruud, but he has not beaten him in their last two meetings.
The eighth-seeded Norwegian defeated Cilic in two sets on clay in Rome in 2020 and in three sets on the Canadian hard court in the ATP Masters last season.
Ruud will come into Friday's match off a few hours less of rest and a handful of battles over the last week in Paris.
The 23-year-oldwas pushed to four sets by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round and each of his last three matches went four or five sets.
On the other hand, Cilic breezed through his first four rounds, dropping just a single set. He benefited from that freshness in the fifth set against Rublev on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old should have fresher legs and will be able to bank off his previous major semifinal experience. His last trip this far into a major came at the 2018 Australian Open, where he eventually lost in five sets to Roger Federer in the final.
Ruud may find a slight advantage because of his form. He has advanced to the final of three ATP Tour events and won two of them this season.
However, Cilic will have the better feel of what the match will be like and that could play to his advantage if it lasts longer than three sets.
Final Prediction: Rafael Nadal vs. Marin Cilic