Zverev Withdraws After A Catastrophe Tumble As Nadal Reaches His 14th French Open Final
Zverev withdraws after a catastrophe tumble and Nadal reaches his fourteenth final at French Open
By Kingsley Elliot Kaye
The most dreaded ending for a tennis match is a withdrawal owing to injury.
We watched, heartbroken, aghast, Zverev hopper up in crutches to the umpire and then tearfully embrace Nadal.
Ten minutes earlier, lugging to hit a forehand winner down the line, Zverev had stumbled and his ankle was anchored in the clay for a fatal instant, and ruinously twisted to follow his falling body. It was the twelfth game of the second set, which seemed to be heading, as the former, towards a tiebreak.
It had been a spectacular match, crammed with emotions, remarkable shots. One of those matches you wish could go on forever, deserving not to be refrained by any super tiebreak.
It was the match in which Zverev showed the world he had found an inner equilibrium. Not eradicating his doubts, his anxiety, his sudden failings, but able to accept them without falling into despair, to leave them behind and resume his towering game time after time.
“It’s not easy to talk after what happened. The only thing that I can say is I hope he’s not too bad. Hopefully nothing is broken,” said Nadal. “It has been a very, very tough match. I think he started the match playing amazing. I know how much means to him, fight to win his first Grand Slam. For me it’s a dream to be in the final of Roland Garros, of course that way is not the way that we want it to be.”
The closed roof resulting in lower bounce was believed to be detrimental to Nadal. His shots would be numbed, and more easily aggressed.
Indeed Zverev proved, from the very first game, to have the power to hit through Nadal’s defence. He broke immediately, then strode off with excellent serving and winners of both groundstrokes.
In the early stages Zverev was positioned closer to the line than usual, while Nadal seemed to be moving less sharply. Zverev was alternating lifted balls and heavy strikes, whereas Nadal was hitting short and his spin appeared muffled.
Nadal struggled on his second game on serve, his shots landing too short, and was 15-30 after the German drilled a backhand crosscourt. But two netted returns allowed the Spaniard to keep up.
At 4-2 Zverev stats were thriving: 95% of first serves in 6 games and 11 winners. A first lapse occurred in the eighth game at 40-30 Zverev squandered the chance to rise 5-3 by spraying a long forehand, then doublefaulted, hauling a second serve over speed limits, 209 kph, and conceded a breakpoint. He saved it by winning a 20-shot rally in which he was always putting pressure and Nadal finally netted a forehand. Incredibly Zverev mishit an easy forehand on the next point just a couple of feet from the net, so badly that his racquet flew out of his hands. The second break point was fatal: Zverev missed a comfortable crosscourt backhand after an excellent first serve and Nadal caught up and shortly overtook holding serve.
At 5-4 a netted forehand by Zverev meant set point for Nadal. But the German effaced it with a proficient serve. The game turned into a battle, and Zverev faced two other setpoints before holding with a low dropshot volley.
In the eleventh game Nadal went 0-30 down but surfaced with two dropshots. Zverev still got a breakpoint with an angled crosscourt backhand and Nadal saved with serve and volley, his most celebrated tactic in crucial moments. And he deployed the same scheme to save a second break point. He was clearly flaring up. He eventually held and so did Zverev; 6-6 and tiebreak.
Zverev gifted a minibreak missing an easy open court forehand but Nadal netted his own forehand immediately after and returned the favour.
Zverev got a second minibreak with a forehand passing shot on a slightly tentative foray to the net by the Spaniard, determined to mix it up.
A crosscourt forehand acceleration after a baseline rally and Zverev led 4-2, then 5-2 thanks to an angled crosscourt backhand after a 205 kph first serve.
He earned a second minibreak accelerating with his forehand and had a 4-setpoint portfolio at 6-2.
Nadal erased the first with an ace. Zverev missed an easy backhand volley on the second.
A crosscourt passing forehand down the line on the run by Nadal elated the crowd and obliterated the third, whereas after running side to side for the whole point he scrambled to save the fourth, forcing Zverev to play and miss a tough high backhand volley on the stretch.
Nadal conquered his first set point with a forehand down the line.
Zverev saved it placing a backhand on the line. But then dumped a backhand in the net. This time Nadal had set point on serve, but his backhand flew out long.
A drop shot brough up a third set point. After a first serve had opened the court up Zverev recklessly hit a forehand again to Nadal’s forehand and was passed. 10-8 and 1 hour and 31 minutes of rollercoaster battle.
The second set opened up with Nadal enticing Zverev to the net with a dropshot, then passing him. A second dropshot earned him 0-30. Two unforced errors by Zverev offered him an immediate break.
When his was up 40-15 on serve, the match seemed about to take a crucial and perhaps decisive turn. But surprisingly Nadal tightened up and lost serve.
Zverev was now struggling to finish off points as effectively as in the first set. And Nadal was constantly thrusting in that extra shot. Unforced errors by the German yielded two break points and Nadal converted the second when Zverev overhit a crosscourt passing backhand after an extenuating breath-catching 44-shot rally.
Zverev could have paid toll but Nadal hit three unforced errors and immediately returned the break.
Zverev saved a break point in his next service game with a winning crosscourt backhand. With some struggle he nosed ahead 3-2. His effort was rewarded because a blasting crosscourt forehand won him another break.
Nadal immediately fought back and grabbed a break point by hitting two lobs over Zverev after trapping him at the net with dropshots. A double fault followed and surrendered the break.
Zverev was unshattered and responded to Nadal’s raid at the net by leaping into the stands to hit a lob. Nadal missed the smash and conceded a break point. He ended up losing service a second tima
Zverev served for the set at 5-3 up but was grounded by three double faults and lost his lead.
Nadal was getting more and more aggressive, also because Zverev was striking with less power. In the tenth game when Nadal soared to 0-30 hitting a crosscourt forehand winner on the run, sprinting down the whole baseline, it could have been the final blow. Zverev responded again by firing a backhand down the line. And followed it up to hold.
Nadal served to reach a second tiebreak. He climbed to 40-15. He came to the net but was passed by a crosscourt forehand. The score was 40-30. The clock read 3 hours and 3 minutes.
Then it happened.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round
Third round singles action concludes on Saturday in Paris.
In what could be the first of many battles between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, 19-year-old Coco Gauff will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva. And the top two American men, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, take on considerable opposition in Francisco Cerundolo and Sascha Zverev, respectively.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Mirra Andreeva (Q) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Gauff is 21-8 on the year despite changes to her coaching team and some continued issues with the mechanics of her game, primarily her forehand and serve. She was the runner-up here a year ago, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the final to Iga Swiatek. Coco dropped the first set in her opener, but has easily secured her four sets played since.
Andreeva is ranked 143rd in the world, but she started the year 312th. She is an excellent 22-2 at all levels, including qualifying. Mirra has taken all 10 sets she’s played since the beginning of qualifying last week. The tennis world first took notice of her earlier this clay court season in Madrid, when she upset Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette to reach the fourth round.
On Saturday, I would not be shocked to witness Andreeva upset Gauff. Coco has not been playing her best tennis of late, going just 3-3 on clay ahead of this fortnight. And she has the pressure of defending finalist points on her young shoulders. But Gauff has a big game, and certainly has a huge edge in experience, both of which should be enough to propel her to victory.
Francisco Cerundolo (23) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
It will be quite interesting to see and hear how the French crowd treats Fritz on Saturday after provoking, trolling, and shushing the audience on Thursday evening. Taylor may live to regret that decision, as the French tennis fans have long memories, and love to involve themselves in matches. Fritz is now a strong 31-11 this season, and looking to advance to the second week of this tournament for the first time.
Cerundolo is 22-14 this year, and 15-9 on clay. All three of his career ATP finals have come on this surface, including just last week in Lyon.
So what will prevail on Saturday: Taylor’s serving prowess, or Francisco’s formidable forehand? In another first career meeting on the day, I give the American the slight edge. While the crowd will be against him, he is much more experienced at this stage of a Major. Prior to this year, Cerundolo was 0-4 in the main draw at Slams.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Lesia Tsurenko – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu
Andreescu’s victory over Victoria Azarenka in the first round was quite a surprise. Bianca was just 9-9 on the year, and 0-2 on clay, a surface where she only owns 14 career victories. She has unfortunately suffered setback after setback since her amazing 2019 season, yet continues to try to fight her way back to the top of the sport.
Tsurenko, a Ukrainian, has been open regarding how hard it has been to play on tour for the last year-and-a-half. She even withdrew from Indian Wells in March, after having a panic attack which she blamed on unsettling comments from WTA CEO Steve Simon regarding Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. But Lesia is now a superb 27-8 this season at all levels, and eliminated 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round.
Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this year on a hard court in Hua Hin, when Tsurenko was leading 7-5, 4-0 in the semifinals before Andreescu retired from the match. And on Saturday, I lean towards Lesia to prevail again based on both players’ form this season.
Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Frances Tiafoe (12) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Tiafoe is 23-8 in 2023, and while clay is not his strongest surface, he did win a 250-level title at the start of the clay season in Houston. Frances was just 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros before this week, at the only Major where he’s yet to reach the second week.
Of course it was at this event a year ago when Zverev suffered that gruesome, upsetting ankle injury in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal, ending his 2022 season. He is yet to rediscover his top form this year, with a modest record of 18-14. But Sascha did claim his first two matches this week in straight sets.
Zverev has dominated their history, with a 6-1 edge. However, they haven’t played in over 18 months, and Tiafoe and Zverev are both different players than they were in 2021. Yet on this surface, Sascha should be favored to advance after an extended battle on Saturday night.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday:
Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – It’s hard to find two more polar opposite styles: the power of Rybakina, and the grinding defense of Sorribes Tormo. Neither player has dropped a set to this stage, and Sara took their only previous meeting, two years ago on a hard court in Miami.
Zhizhen Zhang vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Ruud has not repeated his great success from 2022 during 2023, with an 18-11 record to date. Zhizhen made his big breakthrough earlier this year in Madrid, where he won three consecutive third-set tiebreaks over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz. He is the first Chinese man to win a match at the French Open in 86 years, as he and Wu Yibing continue to break new ground for Chinese tennis.
Ekaterina Alexandrova (23) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – This is the farthest Haddad Maia has ever advanced at a Major. This is Alexandrova’s sixth time in the third round of a Slam, but she’s yet to go farther. They’ve played twice before in qualifying for events in 2017, with Beatriz winning both matches.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Xinyu Wang – Swiatek won her first two matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-0. And Iga is 4-0 in the third round of Roland Garros. Xinyu is also yet to lose a set, in her best performance at a Major to date.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Djokovic Face Seeded Opposition on Friday
Third round singles action commences on Friday in Paris.
In the top half of the ATP singles draw, which plays on Friday, 11 of 16 seeds have advanced to the third round, making for some blockbuster encounters. But in the bottom half of the WTA singles draw, which also plays on Friday, only six of 16 seeds remain after two rounds, leaving plenty of room for new names to break through to the second week of this Major.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Court Philippe-Chatrier
Djokovic is now 22-4 on the year, despite his vaccination status and an elbow injury forcing him to miss multiple events. And despite whatever this thing is taped to his chest. Novak hasn’t dropped a set through two rounds, and hasn’t failed to advance beyond the third round of this tournament since 2009, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
Davidovich Fokina is 19-13 in 2023, and was a quarterfinalist here two years ago. The 23-year-old is a flashy, emotional, and inconsistent player. But he’s capable of defeating top players, as he did Djokovic last year in Monte Carlo.
Djokovic claimed their other two meetings easily in straight sets, back in 2021. And on Friday, the 22-time Major champion is a considerable favorite to prevail again, especially in the best-of-five format.
Lorenzo Musetti (17) vs. Cameron Norrie (14) – Third in Court Simonne-Mathieu
Like Alejandro, Lorenzo is a flashy, uber-talented young player. But his results are also up-and-down, with a record of 15-12 this season. The 21-year-old advanced to the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, when he was up two sets against Djokovic before succumbing and retiring two games from defeat.
Norrie is the opposite: a consistent, less glitzy performer. The British No.1 is 29-10 on the season, and has been one of the ATP’s winningest players the last two seasons. However, he is 0-2 in the third round of this event, losing to Rafael Nadal and Karen Khachanov the last two years.
Their only prior matchup took place earlier this clay court season in Barcelona, with Musetti coming from a set down to win 6-1 in the third. But this is another case where the best-of-five format favors the higher seed and more fit player in Norrie, while the slight upset by the Italian and his formidable backhand would not be shocking.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Tsitsipas is 27-8 this season, yet is 0-5 in his last five tournament finals, dating back nearly a year. That includes a straight-set loss to Djokovic in the championship match of January’s Australian Open.
Schwartzman has seriously struggled this year, with a record of 5-16 at all levels coming into this fortnight, arriving in Paris on a five-match losing streak. However, he has advanced to the fourth round or better at this tournament in four of the last five years, and remains a considerable threat on this surface.
Stefanos leads their head-to-head 4-2 overall, and 2-0 on clay. And based on recent form, the Greek is a significant favorite on Friday.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (26) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Alcaraz is 32-3 in 2023, and 22-2 on clay. He’s accumulated four titles, three of which came on this surface. Carlitos was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, losing in four sets to Sascha Zverev.
It’s been a really rough season for Shapovalov. The Canadian was 7-9 on the year coming into the French Open, and 1-2 on clay. And this easily remains his worst Major, with a lifetime record of 4-4, and this third round appearance being his best result to date.
In their first career meeting, the 20-year-old Spaniard is a strong favorite to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Elise Mertens (28) vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – Both players are yet to drop a set, though Pegula received a retirement from Camila Giorgi after one set on Wednesday. Mertens leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches taking place a few years ago on hard courts.
Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Khachanov came back from two sets down in his opening round contest against Constant Lestienne of France, while Kokkinakis survived a grueling five-setter in the last round against Stan Wawrinka. When they played five years ago on clay in Monte Carlo, Karen prevailed in straight sets.
Kamilla Rakhimova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 31-5 on the year, but is vying to reach the round of 16 in Paris for the first time. Rakhimova is a 21-year-old who has never advanced to the round of 16 at any Major. This is a first career meeting between two more players who have not dropped a set.
Lorenzo Sonego vs. Andrey Rublev (7) – Rublev has won consecutive four-setters to reach this stage. Sonego already took out another seed, Ben Shelton. These players have split two prior tour-level meetings, with Lorenzo claiming the one contested on clay.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Excited’ To Break More Records After Sealing 20th Roland Garros Win
Stefanos Tsitsipas is ‘excited’ to break more records after securing his 20th Roland Garros victory.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is ‘excited’ to break more records as he claimed a 20th victory at Roland Garros.
The Greek progressed to the third round of Roland Garros with a straight sets win over Roberto Carballes Baena.
Tsitsipas’ win was the 51st of his Grand Slam career as well as the 20th victory that he secured at Roland Garros.
Speaking after the win Tsitsipas spoke about the satisfaction he gets when he breaks records, “I am very much in when it comes to breaking records. I get excited when I see personal records being kind of set and broken,” Tsitsipas said in his press conference.
“Of course it’s a great satisfaction to be seeing those stats, because there is so much work behind it, and sometimes it’s difficult to grasp the fact that it all happened so quickly.
“I just wish to keep on going. I wish to be healthy and to be fighting for more titles and breaking personal records but also records that haven’t been set before in tennis, like that serve thing that happened in Madrid was quite cool, actually. I never thought about it. It just happened.”
Tsitsipas will look to gain more Grand Slam wins in the future as he aims for a maiden Grand Slam title over the next two weeks.
The world number five also spoke about how tennis is a psychological sport and how important it is to perform well under pressure, “Well, it’s psychological, I believe, a big important part of the game,” Tsitsipas said.
“As I said, in the tiebreaker, my mind shifted. It changed towards something — well, I wasn’t aiming too much for being conservative, and that led me, that for sure I owe to that, that I was able to win a tiebreaker because of that.
“The psychological state that you’re in when you play is “the” most important thing, and this starts from outside of the court. If you’re able to be in peace and balance before you step on the court, that’s already a big
advantage that you have.
“Of course technical, these are minor things that you can always improve on and are much more controllable in a way and have external force too. But I think if you’re a player that can perform big on pressure moments, that is the thing that is going to just give you a good career in tennis.
“There are a few guys that can play good under pressure, especially in big, tight moments, and you have to have the mental strength of a Navy SEAL to pull it through, in a way. You have to have the physique of a marathon runner, the lungs of a marathon runner.
“You have to have the power of a football player, so back to the hard-work part, there is just so many little components that you have to link up in order to make this unbelievable player where you allow yourself to be unstoppable.”
This is a fascinating insight from Tsitsipas on the psychological work it takes to become a successful tennis player.
Now Tsitsipas looks to use these elements to his advantage as he looks to finally make his Grand Slam breakthrough in Paris.
The fifth seed’s Roland Garros charge will now continue on Friday where he plays Nuno Borges or Diego Schwartzman.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round
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