We’re at the business end of the French Open and the men’s semi-finals line-up offers plenty of promise.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked players and the pre-tournament favourites, have booked their spots against two first-time French Open semi-finalists.
Nadal will take on Diego Schwartzman, the diminutive 12th seed from Argentina, on Friday in a rematch of a surprise defeat for the Spaniard at the Italian Open in the buildup to the event.
Djokovic will then follow, meeting Greek 22-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas – who will contest his second Grand Slam semi-final.
Both promise to be engaging encounters. Here we take a look at both matches and predict who will reach the final.
Diego Schwartzman vs Rafael Nadal
It’s been a cracking couple of weeks for Diego Schwartzman.
He followed up a run to a first Masters 1000 final in Rome, which was accompanied by a straight sets win over ‘King of Clay’ Nadal, by reaching a first Grand Slam semi-final, which included a first top-five win at a major over recently-crowned US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
Schwatzman, 28, is guaranteed to hit a career-high ranking of world No. 8 at the tournament’s conclusion and few could argue he has worked wonders with the tools he has at his disposal.
His opponent needs no introduction in these parts.
Diego Schwartzman route to French Open semi-finals
R1: 6-0 6-1 6-3 Kecmanovic
R2: 6-1 7-5 6-0 Giustino
R3: 7-6 6-3 6-3 Gombos
R4: 6-1 6-3 6-4 Sonego
QF: 7-6 5-7 6-7 7-6 6-2 Thiem
Rafael Nadal route to French Open semi-finals
R1: 6-4 6-4 6-2 Gerasimov
R2: 6-1 6-0 6-3 McDonald
R3: 6-1 6-4 6-0 Travaglia
R4: 6-1 6-1 6-2 Korda
QF: 7-6 6-4 6-1 Sinner
A 12-time French Open champion, Nadal has largely cruised to this point – although he was pushed hard by 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner in his quarter-final match.
Still, he has yet to drop a set. And despite his complaints about the change of balls and heavier conditions, the fact still remains: Nadal is incredibly difficult to beat on clay.
Indeed, he has won 98 of his 100 matches at Roland Garros. Good luck, Diego.
What have they said?
Diego Schwartzman: ‘I was lucky to play today [Tuesday] the five-sets match because now I have two days free. I have a good situation about the recovery after the matches. I feel in a good way after the matches.
‘Before this match I was doing a great job winning in three sets. That’s why it’s very important to win when you have the opportunity in three sets because when is coming the five sets, you have to have the fuel tank full.
‘I was perfect today. I think after two days I’m going to be perfect in semi-final.’
Rafael Nadal: ‘He played an amazing match against one of the best players of the world, without a doubt, especially on this surface.
‘He’s coming with big confidence, no? Two weeks in a row… He’s in the final in Rome, he’s in the semi-finals here. He beat me there. It’s a plus of confidence for him. I know that.
‘I’m going to try to go on court, play my best, try to play my game, play aggressive, try to do something a little bit different than what I did in Rome, of course. Hope to be ready to play my best. That’s what I need. That’s what I am looking for. I going to give my best until the end.
‘I have two days to practice the things that I need to keep improving, and that’s what I going to do.’
Prediction: Schwartzman may have got the better of Nadal in Rome but that should only inspire a faster, stronger start from the world No. 2 from Spain. Spending more than five hours on court ousting Thiem is also unlikely to help his cause, even with the two-day break. Nadal won’t underestimate Schwartzman and that’s almost certainly bad news for him – Nadal in 3 .
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Novak Djokovic
Since fighting back from two sets down in the opening round, Tsitsipas has found his groove at Roland Garros.
The fifth seed has bounced back well from failing to convert six match points in a painful third-round defeat at the US Open to Borna Coric and a first-round exit in Rome to reach a final in Hamburg before stringing together his joint-best run at a major.
His previous semi-final appearance, at the 2019 Australian Open, saw him dispatch Roger Federer in the fourth round before being humbled by Nadal in the semi-finals.
This time, he faces a first Grand Slam meeting with Djokovic – a player he has beaten in two of their five meetings to date.
Stefanos Tsitsipas route to French Open semi-finals
R1: 4-6 2-6 6-1 6-4 6-4 Munar
R2: 6-1 6-4 6-2 Cuevas
R3: 6-1 6-2 3-1 RET Bedene
R4: 6-3 7-6 6-2 Dimitrov
QF: 7-5 6-2 6-3 Rublev
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