Nadal outclasses battling Schwartzman to reach final

Nadal outclasses battling Schwartzman to reach final


Rafael Nadal reached the French Open final without dropping a set as Diego Schwartzman became the latest man to be dispatched with aplomb.

The Spaniard steadied after a late wobble to avenge his defeat to Schwartzman at the Italian Open in September, coming through 6-3 6-3 7-6(0) at Roland Garros.

He will draw level with Roger Federer (20) in the men's all-time Grand Slam charts should he triumph in Sunday's final, with Novak Djokovic blocking his path to a record-extending 13th title.

"Two and a half weeks ago, I lost in Rome," Nadal said in an on-court interview.

"I'm happy with the way I played, how I've improved, today was a very positive win for me. With these conditions it's very difficult, and it's still incredible to be in the final again.

A marathon 14-minute opening game suggested the socially-distanced crowd in Court Philippe-Chatrier were in for a titanic encounter, but Nadal duly swatted away two break points to hold before cracking his opponent's serve immediately to lead 2-0.

The points were often sapping baseline duels, with neither serve making major inroads, and yet they always seemed to finish with a Nadal fist pump when the stakes were high.

Nadal has never lost in Paris after winning the first set - he has tasted defeat just twice in 101 matches - so when he finally sealed the opener after 66 bruising minutes, the outcome looked inevitable.

He broke twice to race through the second set, breaking again at the start of the third to leave him on the cusp of victory.

But Schwartzman was not quite done. The Argentine dialled up the aggression, finally ripping through the impenetrable Nadal defence and fuelling hopes of a historic comeback.

Suddenly, Nadal's game was littered with uncharacteristic errors as 4-2 became 4-4 and eventually, after some more gruelling baseline action, a tie-break.

But Nadal has forged a career on his ability to peak when it matters most and the 34-year-old rediscovered his groove, earning the first mini-break with glorious hands at the net.

Schwartzman's composure deserted him from that moment on as a missed volley and wayward backhand saw him slip further behind, with a nightmare tie-break concluded when he found the net.

Nadal will chase his 100th win at the French Open against Djokovic and, on this evidence, will take some stopping.

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