Rafael Nadal secures 14th place in French Open semifinal after beating Argentinian Diego Schwartzman

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Rafael Nadal survives brief scare to secure 14th place in French Open semifinal after beating Argentinian Diego Schwartzman…

Since the draw of the French Open two weeks ago, it has rolled like a bolt from the blue towards Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal versus Novak Djokovic.

And on Wednesday night, their semi-final was finally confirmed, after Djokovic stuck to his side of the bargain by beating Italian Matteo Berrettini in the final evening session of the tournament.

Djokovic ended a highly charged quarterfinal with an animal cry, winning 6-3 6-2 6-7 7-5. The match was halted for 20 minutes into the fourth set to clear the already reduced crowd due to the 11 p.m. curfew in Paris.

Rafael Nadal celebrates after sealing his place in the French Open semifinals on Wednesday woensdag

Nadal sealed a 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 win over Argentina's Diego Schwartzman at Roland Garros

Nadal sealed a 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 win over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman at Roland Garros

He and Nadal will face each other for the 58th time on Friday, with the Serb leading 29-28, although he hasn’t beaten Nadal on his beloved clay court in five years.

There was an inevitability about the encounter, coming into the semi-finals as Nadal has been seeded number three due to the semi-frozen rankings which cannot be adjusted for the surface he dominates.

The Spaniard carries with him a tinge of vulnerability and he was pushed hard by Argentina’s Diego Schwartzmann before taking off with their quarter-final 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0.

In stormy conditions he looked tired at times, and he saw his run of 36 victorious sets break Roland Garros. It was the same player who broke his run of 38 winning sets in Paris that ended in 2018.

Nadal will now take on rival Novak Djokovic in a delightful semi-final on Friday

Nadal will now take on rival Novak Djokovic in a delightful semi-final on Friday

Djokovic defeated Italian Matteo Berrettini in four sets on Wednesday evening

Djokovic defeated Italian Matteo Berrettini in four sets on Wednesday evening

Before Nadal broke through towards the end of the third, it was noteworthy that Schwartzmann often got the better of the longer rallies, even though the petite South American is a machine-like baseliner.

“It’s not a final, that’s a big difference,” he said of his last meeting with Djokovic. “Even the winner of that competition has to keep going and there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the final goal here.

“It’s a game when you know you have to play your best tennis. That’s something that’s good, because we practice, we experience the sport for these moments. So that’s a good thing. The negative is that it is difficult because you are playing against one of the best players in history. ‘

In contrast, an unannounced group of French Open women’s semi-finalists are led by Maria Sakkari, a former tennis court player in Greece who employs a young British coach.

Nadal and Schwartzman hug at the net after the quarter-final match

Nadal and Schwartzman hug at the net after the quarter-final match

The Spaniard has never been beaten at Roland Garros once he has reached the last four

The Spaniard has never been beaten at Roland Garros once he has reached the last four

Schwartzman has now lost to Nadal for the third time in four years at the French Open

Schwartzman has now lost to Nadal for the third time in four years at the French Open

For the first time in modern history, Roland Garros has a final four made up entirely of the first semi-finalists of a Grand Slam.

Sakkari – who teams up with Tom Hill, a 26-year-old coach from Birmingham – stunned Polish defending champion Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-4 to knock out the last of the favourites.

Remarkably, Greece, which has long been immune to the global spread of tennis, now has two semi-finalists in Paris and the more established Stefanos Tsitsipas the other.

With a placement of 17, Sakkari is the highest ranked player left and will be the fringe favorite to win the trophy.

Djokovic hugs Berrettini after sealing his place in French Open semifinals

Djokovic hugs Berrettini after sealing his place in French Open semifinals

The 25-year-old from Athens is a strong athlete whose mother, Angeliki Kanellopoulou, was one of the few players from her country to achieve a lot in the game, briefly reaching the top 50 in the mid-1990s.

Sakkari was asked to reflect on the sudden interest in tennis in Greece, where football and basketball predominate: ‘Well, it (tennis) certainly exists now. I am very close with Stefanos. We’ve known each other from a very young age. I see him here every day. We actually eat dinner with our teams next to each other every night.’

She now faces unseeded Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic, who ended 17-year-old Coco Gauff’s run 7-6 6-3. The American fell to 0-5 after missing five set points in the nerve-wracking opener.

In the other semifinal on Thursday, the number 32 in the world, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, will play against the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek, 53 places lower than her.

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