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After his feat against Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal plays the first semi-final of the 2022 edition of the Roland-Garros tournament on Friday. On Parisian clay, the Spaniard is the king. But his physical form worries as the powerful Alexander Zverev stands in front of him.
Will Rafael Nadal celebrate his 36th birthday with a fourteenth qualification for the Roland-Garros final? Friday June 3, the Majorcan blows out an additional candle. And for this particular day, he is entitled to a new match at the top, on this clay court where he has already shone so much.
Three days after his legendary quarter-final against Novak Djokovic, which began on Tuesday evening and ended on Wednesday at 1:16 a.m., Rafael Nadal returns to the Philippe-Chartier court to face Alexander Zverev in the semi-final.
The German, currently world number 3, does not have the track record or the reputation of his opponent of the day in Paris. And if Rafael Nadal, model of professionalism, probably does not intend to underestimate the semi-finalist, Alexander Zverev, he has the means to seize the machine of his opponent.
Zverev finally wants to win
In the quarter-finals, the one nicknamed “Sascha” struck a blow by eliminating the Spanish phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz. Exceptional since the start of the year, the latter was destined to find his elder Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, in what could have looked like a handover between the veteran and the young prodigy. But Alexander Zverev got involved and took out Carlos Alcaraz in four sets, giving himself the right to challenge the master of clay.
Crowned Olympic singles champion in Tokyo last summer, the German giant – 1.98m – had already reached the semi-finals at the last edition of Roland-Garros. The Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas then tamed him. This time, he hopes to reach the final, he who has never added a Grand Slam tournament to his record – his best result: finalist of the US Open 2020.
After his success against Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev did not hide his ambition. “I’m not 20 or 21 anymore. I’m 25. I’m at a stage where I want to win, where I’m supposed to win,” he said, still unsure whether he would face Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. But no matter the opponent, Alexander Zverev finally wants to concretize his progress with a Grand Slam title.
He will therefore have to achieve a feat: to become the third man to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros. In the space of 17 years and 113 matches at Porte d’Auteuil, only the Swede Robin Söderling, in 2009, and the Serbian Novak Djokovic, in 2015 and 2021, have succeeded.
How is Nadal after his battle against Djokovic?
But the man with thirteen coronations in Paris will also have to be solid to pass the Zverev obstacle. The German serves very hard and develops an aggressive game. His power has already done damage: in nine confrontations against him, Rafael Nadal has lost three times, including once on clay at the Madrid Masters 1000 in 2021. These three losses have been recorded in their last four face-to-face matches. -Face.
The “Bull of Manacor” must also struggle with another tough opponent: himself, or rather his weakened body to be precise. The Spaniard made no secret of his physical condition. Suffering from Müller-Weiss syndrome, a necrosis of the scaphoid bone which causes chronic pain, he suffered martyrdom in his left foot.
Admittedly, with care and a slew of anti-inflammatories, Rafael Nadal has been able to respond so far. But what state is he in after his match against Djokovic, 4:12 long, knowing that he had already spent so much time on the court in the previous round against the Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime?
“It will be a physical but also a mental challenge. Normally, when Rafa beats Djokovic in a Grand Slam tournament, it’s in the final and he wins the trophy. But this time it was quarters. He has two days to recover but it will be a difficult test for Rafa”, warned the former British tennis player Tim Henman, converted consultant for Eurosport. Whether it sees the legend Nadal triumph again or the ambitious Zverev win, this semi-final will be worth its weight in gold.