French Open 2021: Nadal drops set, beats Schwartzman to reach semis
Rafael Nadal's French Open set streak is over. His pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title — including 14 at Roland Garros — remains very much intact.
Nadal shrugged off dropping a set in Paris for the first time in two years and regained control Wednesday, whipping violent forehands punctuated with first pumps and yells of "Vamos!" en route to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman to reach the semifinals at the clay-court major tournament.
After taking the last nine games against Schwartzman, No. 3 seed Nadal will play in Friday's semifinals against either No. 1 Novak Djokovic, in what would be a rematch of last year's final and their 58th meeting anywhere, or No. 9 Matteo Berrettini. The Djokovic-Berrettini quarterfinal was scheduled for Wednesday night.
The other men's semifinal will be No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 6 Alexander Zverev.
Nadal, who turned 35 last week, is now 105-2 for his career at Roland Garros.
He is just two wins from eclipsing the men's mark for most total Grand Slam singles championships that he currently shares with Roger Federer.
In addition to his 13 trophies at Roland Garros — four in a row from 2005-08, five in a row from 2010-14 and another four in a row so far since 2017 — the Spanish left-hander won four titles at the U.S. Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.
There are four first-time Grand Slam semifinalists left in the women’s bracket, something that last happened at the 1978 Australian Open.
In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari ended Iga Swiatek’s title defense by beating her 6-4, 6-4, and unseeded Barbora Krejcikova stopped the run of 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (6), 6-3. So Sakkari faces Krejcikova on Thursday, when the other semifinal will be No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova against unseeded Tamara Zidansek.
Nadal entered his quarterfinal with a 35-set run at Roland Garros that began during the 2019 final. That grew to 36 on Wednesday, before Schwartzman outplayed him for a stretch, surprisingly winning more of their exchanges that lasted at least nine strokes.
Ah, but what matters is who wins the match, and Nadal asserted himself quickly after Schwartzman was ahead 4-3 in the third.
Nadal would not drop another game, breaking to go up 5-4, before holding at love to take the third set. Then he broke again to open the fourth and really remove any remaining sense of suspense.
Schwartzman — now 1-11 against Nadal, including a loss in the 2020 French Open semifinals — started muttering to himself and bounced his racket off the clay a moment before getting broken again to trail 3-0 in fourth.