Paris | Nadal and Ruud make final

Both semi-finals had their portion of drama which rather marred what should have been two exciting semi-final matches eventually ending with Rafa Nadal and Casper Ruud progressing into Sunday’s French Open final.

If you are human, you feel sorry for a colleague,. It's very tough and very sad for him. He was playing an unbelievable tournament and he's a very good colleague on the tour. Rafa Nadal

For Nadal it will be his 14th final at Roland Garros and in his previous 13 visits, left holding the trophy high. It is also his 30th major final and if victorious, will extend his record to 22 Grand Slam titles won, two ahead of his rival Novak Djokovic.

But on this occasion, his arrival at the championship match was marred by a very unfortunate and painful looking ankle injury to his opponent, Alexander Zverev, who was then forced to retire with Nadal leading 7-6(8) 6-6 while, in Ruud’s semi against Marin Cilic, the match was interrupted by a protester running onto the court where she tied herself to the net. Following her removal, Ruud advanced in the final 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 to become the first Norwegian to reach that stage at a major championship.

But the Zverev injury was heart-breaking for not only was he giving the King of Clay one of the toughest matches the Spaniard had possibly experienced at Roland Garros, his piercing scream of pain as he fell while chasing a wide ball, echoed around the Philippe Chatrier stadium – which had its roof closed because of rain – shocked the 15,000 attending.

Rafael Nadal checks on Alexander Zverev as he receives medical attention f

John Berry/Getty Images

The German in tears, was wheeled off in a wheelchair and after some six-minutes, hobbled back on court on crutches to concede by shaking the umpire’s hand and that of his rival, who embraced him in consolation.

“If you are human, you feel sorry for a colleague,” the 13-time French Open champion Nadal said in his on court interview.

“It’s very tough and very sad for him. He was playing an unbelievable tournament and he’s a very good colleague on the tour.

“I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam. For the moment, he was very unlucky. I’m sure he’ll win not one, but much more than one. I wish him all the best.”

He then turned to his own progress: “For me, to be in the final of Roland Garros is a dream, without a doubt, but at the same time, for it to finish that way… I have been there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that…”

Alexander Zverev returns to the court on crutches to concede the match

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Until the dramatic end of the match, the 25-year-old Zverev had been pushing the Spanish icon who was celebrating his 36th birthday, all the way.

In a rollercoaster, 91-minute first set – one of the longest ever experienced – Zverev was out of the blocks faster, breaking Nadal in the opening game and with some fearsome ball striking off both wings, kept the Spaniard on the back foot until the eighth game when he finally broke back.

The physicality of the match was evident as Nadal’s clothing started to stick to his body from the sweat he was generating in the humid conditions caused by the closed roof.

He saw three set points come and go in the 10th game and then saved four set points in a knife-edge tiebreak, one of them off a spectacular running crosscourt forehand while another blistering forehand pass gave him the opener on his sixth set point.

In contrast the second set featured eight breaks of serve and when Nadal broke for 2-1, he did so after an exhausting 44-shot rally! But as in the first, it went down to another tiebreak when fate intervened in dramatic fashion pushing Nadal into the final where he is now the second oldest player to reach the last two behind American Bill Tilden, who lost in the title round when 37 years of age back in 1930.

Victory saw Nadal, who knocked out world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, take his record at the French Open to an extraordinary 111 wins with just three losses in 17 years.

Victory on Sunday would make him the tournament’s oldest champion, eclipsing 34-year-old compatriot Andres Gimeno who won the title in 1972, but he will have to get past Casper Ruud who is making a name for himself by winning 6 of his 8 titles on clay.

Casper Ruud becomes the first male Norwegian to reach a major final

Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The 23-year-old becomes the first Norwegian man to reach a Grand Slam final and has revealed Nadal was his idol. He will also have seen how Zverev handled the Spaniard and could well use own big forehand to good effect.

In his semi Ruud fired 16 aces and 41 winners past 2014 US Open champion Cilic who, at 33, was experiencing his best run at a major in recent years.

After huge back-to-back wins over Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, Cilic came out firing on all fronts against Ruud with the roof now open. But Ruud, 10 years younger than Cilic, steadied his game and took over from the second behind his serve and forehand as the Croat faded.

However, there was a worrying security breach at 4-1 in the fourth set when a female protester ran onto the court wearing a shirt with the slogan ‘We have 1028 days left’ and then tying herself by the neck, to the net.

The match was delayed by 15-minutes as security removed her from the premises. Ruud then nearly dropped serve but held on and minutes later was in the final.

“It was a great match from my side,” Ruud said. “I didn’t start the greatest, but Marin also played well in the first set. I was too defensive and then I was able to break him in the second set and that got me going again. From that break I played some of my best tennis this year. Serving well, playing aggressive, So I am super happy with my performance today.”

Ruud will now test his skills against Nadal for the first time.

“It is amazing,” said Ruud of facing Rafa. “He is the last player of the Big 3 and the very top players in the world I have never played against.

“So I guess this is perfect timing and worth the wait. To finally play him in a Grand Slam final will be a special moment for me. Hopefully a little bit for him as well.

“He has played so many finals, but at least he is playing a student from his academy this time. So it is going to be a fun one hopefully.”
It should be a good final.



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