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Rediff.com  » Sports » French Open PIX: Nadal overcomes hiccup, to face Del Potro in semis

French Open PIX: Nadal overcomes hiccup, to face Del Potro in semis

Last updated on: June 07, 2018 19:25 IST

IMAGES from the French Open matches played on Thursday

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his quarter-final match against Argentina's Diego Schwartzman

IMAGE: Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his quarter-final match against Argentina's Diego Schwartzman. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Rafael Nadal lost his first set at the French Open since 2015 but that blip did not prevent the 10-times champion from marching into the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Diego Schwartzman in their rain-delayed match on Thursday.

The World No 1 had looked out of sorts in damp conditions on Wednesday as Schwartzman bombarded him with winners to cause him all sorts of problems, with the Argentine leading by a set and a break when the players were first called off court due to rain.

Upon resumption, the Spaniard gradually improved before rain brought an early end to the day with Nadal on the brink of winning the second set.

It was a very different story when the contest resumed on Thursday in drier conditions as Nadal won 12 of the first 13 points before cruising into the last four.

The 16-times Grand Slam champion will face another Argentine, fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro, for a place in Sunday's final.

"It was a very difficult match against a very good friend and a very good player. I think that after the rain interruption I played much better, I was more aggressive," said Nadal.

Despite entering the contest with a stupendous 83-2 win-loss record at Roland Garros, Nadal is known to suffer jitters early and Schwartzman capitalised on those nerves to break for a 2-1 lead in the opening set.

Nadal broke straight back by raising his own level.

Spain's Rafael Nadal is congratulated by Argentina's Diego Schwartzman after winning their quarter-final match

IMAGE: Spain's Rafael Nadal is congratulated by Argentina's Diego Schwartzman after winning their quarter-final match. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

But as the Spaniard struggled to win points on his first serve, he was broken again for 5-4 and Schwartzman served for the set.

He fired long on a first set point, Nadal saved the second with a jaw-dropping drop shot but on the third, just after the match was interrupted for a few minutes while an unwell spectator was evacuated, Schwartzman unleashed a stunning forehand winner down the line -- his 20th winner.

Nadal had both his wrists bandaged before the start of the second set but that failed to offer much help as he sent a forehand long to hand another break to Schwartzman, who led 40-0 in the following game, only for his opponent to break back.

But Schwartzman continued to be the aggressor as Nadal played too short, or too long. The Argentine broke Nadal for a fifth time to go 3-2 ahead.

A 45-minute rain delay allowed Nadal to regroup, and it may have extinguished Schwartzman's fire as the Spaniard won three games in a row to put himself in a position to serve for the set -- only to be thwarted with another downpour that halted proceedings on Wednesday.

The match resumed on Thursday and on a dry court favouring Nadal's huge topspin, the diminutive Schwartzman's aggressive tactics failed to make the same impact. Nadal stayed closer to his baseline and it was clear that he had rediscovered his touch.

Nadal, who had won 37 completed sets at Roland Garros before losing the first on Wednesday, was back to his old merciless self on Thursday as he belted 26 winners in the last two sets -- compared to the eight he had produced during the opening two.

He got nervous again, however, in the last game, needing four match points to secure victory.

Del Potro powers past Cilic to set up Rafa clash

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro plays a return against Marin Cilic

IMAGE: Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro plays a forehand return during the men's singles quarter-finals match against Croatia's Marin Cilic. Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro came through a clash of the titans against Marin Cilic to reach his first French Open semi-final for nine years on Thursday, winning a rain-delayed duel 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

The 29-year-old powerhouse's eighth successive defeat of Cilic set up a clash with 10-times champion Rafael Nadal.

Play resumed on a sunny Court Suzanne Lenglen with the towering fifth and third seeds locked at 5-5 in the first set tiebreak after rain had curtailed their high-octane clash on Wednesday.

Del Potro needed only two points to pocket the first set as Cilic blinked first, netting a routine forehand a 5-6.

The second set like, the first was dominated by serve until Cilic fired himself up to break at 4-4 -- a furious Del Potro throwing his racket at the changeover.

Marin Cilic pumps his fists during his match against Del Potro 

IMAGE: Marin Cilic pumps his fists during his match against Del Potro. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Croatian Cilic played an awful game when serving for the set, making four unforced errors, but he was gifted another chance to serve for the set after breaking Del Potro again and at the second time of asking he levelled the match.

Del Potro dipped at the start of the third and Cilic had points for a double break but the burly Argentine, roared on by chants of "Delpo Delpo" recovered his drive to hit back from 0-2 and take the third set.

Former Roland Garros junior champion Cilic, bidding to reach the semi-finals for the first time after falling in the last eight 12 months ago, kept his nose in front in the fourth.

He buckled at 5-5 though and sent a backhand long on break point, leaving Del Potro to serve for the match, which he did with ease as Cilic sent three more backhands out.

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