Rafael Nadal reaches French Open final to face Casper Ruud after Alexander Zverev retires with an ankle injury

Paris – Rafael Nadal He was tied up in Friday’s French Open semi-finals tight, hooded, and long when his third-seeded opponent was Alexander ZverevHe ran to chase a bullet and twisted his right ankle. Zverev fell to the ground, sobbing in pain and clutching his lower leg.

His black clothes, his arms and legs covered in rust-colored mud, he was helped by a coach, who then drove him off the field in a wheelchair. Minutes later, after Nadal saw him crying in a small room on the field, Zverev returned to Court Philippe Chatrier on crutches, took off his right shoe, and agreed to the match, unable to continue.

The abrupt end to a 3-hour competition but not even through two complete sets allowed Nadal, on his 36th birthday, to become the second-most-timed men’s finalist in French Open history. Now he will try to become the oldest champion of a tournament he has already won a record 13 times, facing a Grand Slam final for the first time. Casper Road Sunday.

“The only thing I can say is that I hope it isn’t so bad. I hope it’s normal when you turn your ankle, and I hope there’s nothing (broken). That’s what everyone is hoping for,” Nadal said. “Even if it was my dream to be in the Roland Garros final, of course that’s not the way we want it to be… If you’re human, you should feel very sorry for your colleague.”

With the crackle of rain being heard on the closed retractable roof of Court Philippe Chatrier, and many of the 15,000 crowd chanting over and over “Ra-fa! Ra-fa!” He appeared to claim as tight as possible, draining the first set 7-6 (8) after an hour and a half. The second set also headed into the tiebreak another hour and a half later when Zverev fell behind the baseline and lost a point that allowed Nadal to maintain 6-all serve.

A coach came out to take care of him, and Nadal circled the net to check on Zverev as well. After Zverev returned to court to say he would need to retire from the match, he shook the referee’s hand and then hugged Nadal.

Nadal had chronic pain in his left foot and was coming off two victories that lasted over 4 hours each – including the quarter-finals against the defending champions. Novak Djokovic Which ended at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday – but showed no signs of age, injury or fatigue against 25-year-old Zverev.

What Nadal said next that got him into trouble was the way the intense moisture affected things, with mud sticking to tennis balls and making it difficult for him to apply a thick overhead spin.

“The conditions weren’t perfect for me this afternoon – or the way I usually like to play here,” Nadal said. “That’s why I couldn’t do the damage I wanted.”

In addition to bidding for the 14th French Open trophy, Nadal could claim his 22nd Grand Slam title to add to the men’s record he already holds after winning the Australian Open in January. Djokovic and Roger Federer Draw at 20.

There’s also that at stake for Nadal in Sunday’s final against Roode: it will be the first time the Spaniard has won his first two matches in this year’s Grand Slam.

Rudd became the first Norwegian man to reach a major final, and the 2014 US Open finalist Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in a match interrupted for more than 10 minutes in the third set by a climate activist who netted herself and kneeled on the field.

The 23-year-old Rudd has never faced Nadal but trained at the King of Clay Academy in Mallorca.

“He’s a great example of how to act on the court: never give up and never complain. He’s been my idol all my life,” said Rudd, who was coached by his father Christian, a professional player from 1991-2001. “I think this is perfect timing and it’s worth the wait until we finally play him in the Grand Slam final.”

Zverev was a runner-up at the US Open two years ago and won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, but he is still chasing his first title.

“He was very unlucky,” Nadal said. “The only thing I’m sure is that no one will win – more than one. So I wish him all the best and a very fast recovery.”

Zverev collected nearly twice as many winners, 40-21, and made an “amazing” start, according to Nadal, who called it a “miracle” that he got the first set.

Zverev led 4-2 in each set.

But at first, his racket flew out of his hand and fell behind him after a wild swing mistakenly sent a ball past the chair referee until it landed 10 feet wide from the court. Later, a foul backhand kick allowed Nadal to break for the first time, making it 4-all and sending red and yellow Spanish flags fluttering in the stands.

In the opening tiebreak, Zverev led 6-2, for four set points. But Nadal erased them all, including one by running to his left, and ended up wide of the doubles alley, somehow conjuring a forward pass across the field at an incredible angle. The crowd gave him a warm welcome. He probably had no interest in getting to Zverev’s sharp shot, let alone forming that much of a response.

However, this is what Nadal often does to many opponents. He’s hanging there, he doesn’t take any points, he plays every shot as if it were the last.

He’s been this way since he was a teenager. Why did he stop now when he’s in his mid-thirties?

And Bill Tilden, who reached the Oldest Men’s Final, was the runner-up in 1930 at the age of 37. And Andres Gimeno was the oldest champion to date, aged 34 in 1972.

Nadal, who won the tournament for the first time at Roland Garros on his debut at the age of 19, has said in recent days he can’t be sure if every match could be his last at the French Open. His left foot is the main reason for that pessimism.

“All the sacrifices, all the things that I need to make to try to keep playing, it really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournament,” Nadal said.