PARIS — 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 he ceded the second set and trailed 4-3 in the third, Nadal said later matter-of-factly, “That was the moment to make it happen.”
As if wanting something were enough to will it into existence, he won the next nine games. How? Let him tell you.
“Not many mistakes,” Nadal said. “Hitting a lot of winners. Starting to hit the forehand down the line. Playing more angles. Playing longer with my forehand cross. Returning a little bit better. I mean, my serve, I think, started to work better.”
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.
The 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, but was suspended to impose a pandemic-related curfew set at 11 p.m.
Fans were expected to leave at 10:45 p.m. but many did not and even started chanting “we’ve paid, we’ll stay.” Some even jeered those who left.
Djokovic was up 2-1 in sets and leading 3-2 when play was halted on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
At 10:55 p.m. both players packed their bags and walked off down the tunnel while fans jeered and one shouted out “Rip-off!”
Within a few minutes the main stadium was almost completely empty.