Rafa Nadal’s march to French Open final marred by Alexander Zverev injury

Alexander Zverev of Germany receives medical attention following an injury against Rafael Nadal of Spain during the Men's Singles semi-final at Roland Garros. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Simon BriggsTelegraph Media Group Limited

Rafael Nadal’s progress to a 14th French Open final should have been a joyous moment, but instead his press conference felt like a wake.

Rather than discussing the historic prospect ahead of him, Nadal spent most of the interview expressing sympathy for the injured ankle that ended Alexander Zverev’s tournament.

Zverev had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after he attempted to slide out to a wide forehand but only succeeded in twisting his ankle.

It was a horrible moment, which left the British actress Sienna Miller – who was sitting in the front row only a few feet away – covering her mouth in shock.

Zverev had been giving Nadal a stern examination – so stern, in fact, that their match was on track to run for at least six or seven hours until it was rudely interrupted. When the accident happened, the clock read 3hr 3min, while the scorecard finished on 7-6, 6-6 in Nadal’s favour.

They would have been about to start the second-set tie-break had fate not intervened.

“Very tough and very sad for him,” said Nadal in his on-court interview. “He was playing unbelievable tournament. I know how much he is fighting to win a Grand Slam, he was so unlucky, but the only thing I’m sure is that he is going to win one and maybe more than one.

“For me, a big final of Roland Garros one more time – it’s a dream without a doubt. But at the same time, I have been there in the small room with Sascha before we came on court and to see him crying in there is a very tough moment.”

The last man to be forced to retire from a major semi-final was actually Nadal himself, at the 2018 US Open, so he knows what it feels like.

As for Nadal’s own fitness, it was solid enough to stay competitive here, but his overall future is clouded by the rapidly degenerating scaphoid bone in his right foot.

As Nadal said this week, “I would prefer to lose Sunday’s final and get a new foot. I’d be happy with my life with a new foot. Win is beautiful, but life is much more important than any title.”

There has been an end-of-days tone to some of Nadal’s comments this week, in which he has raised the possibility that he could be playing the final French Open of his career.

If so, how perfect to win tomorrow’s final and then leave in a blaze of glory. However, the Spanish veteran will have to be at his best to stop the momentum of Norway’s rising star Casper Ruud who last night beat Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 in the other semi-final.

Meanwhile, Coco Gauff believes she was destined to meet Iga Swiatek in the French Open final – although maybe not so early in her career. Gauff (18) is through to her first Grand Slam final where she will take on world No 1 Swiatek today.

The pair know each other through their time in the junior ranks, and almost met in the Roland Garros girls’ final four years ago.

Gauff, who won that title, explained: “I’m really happy to play her specifically because I always wanted to play her in a final, and I knew it was going to happen eventually, even in juniors, just from the way our games were both projecting. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Women’s French Open final Live, Eurosport, 2.0

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