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Birthday boy Rafael Nadal targets 14th French Open final despite future fears

Rafael Nadal is looking to celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday by reaching a 14th French Open final which, by his own admission, could be the last of his record career. 13-time champion Nadal takes on Germany’s Alexander Zverev but it’s clear his long-term chronic foot injury has put him on borrowed time.

“The last three and a half months for me, the only thing I can say is that they haven’t been easy,” the Spaniard said after his epic four-set win over former rival Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. “But I must continue.” Nadal, chasing a record 22nd Grand Slam title to move two past Djokovic and Roger Federer, is constantly working to find a cure for the foot problem.

“If we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution, it becomes super difficult for me. I just enjoy every day I have the chance to be here, and without thinking too much about what can happen in the future.

– Find a solution –

“I will continue to fight to find a solution, but at the moment we have not done so.” Nadal’s victory over defending champion and world number one Djokovic was the 110th of his 17-year career at Roland Garros.

He had to draw on his resources to reach his 15th semi-final in the French capital. It took him four hours and 21 minutes to defeat Félix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round in a tie that saw him stretched to five sets for only the third time in the tournament.

Against Djokovic he needed four hours and 12 minutes, saving two set points in set four to avoid another set five.

Djokovic is the man responsible for two of Nadal’s three defeats at Roland-Garros. With his longtime rival, world number two Daniil Medvedev and 2021 fourth runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas out, Nadal remains the favorite to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Against Zverev, he posted a 6-3 winning record, capturing four of the pair’s five clay-court encounters. Zverev, 11 years younger than Nadal, is still in search of a first Grand Slam title. He is in a second consecutive Roland-Garros semi-final.

READ ALSO | French Open: Croatian Marin Cilic becomes the 5th active player to reach the semi-finals of all Grand Slam tournaments

– “Supposed to win” –

He beat teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals but had to save match point in a five-set win over Argentina’s Sebastian Baez in the second round.

He has also never beaten Nadal or Djokovic in major tournaments. “I’m not 20 or 21 anymore, I’m 25. I’m at the stage where I want to win, I’m at the stage where I’m supposed to win,” admitted the third seed.

In Friday’s other semi-final, Marin Cilic takes on Casper Ruud, with both men reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals for the first time.

Cilic, 33 and 2014 US Open champion, is only the fifth active player along with Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to have reached the semi-finals of all four Grand Slams.

Cilic, ranked 23rd in the world, is in his first major semi-final since 2018, when he was second to Federer at the Australian Open. Ruud is the first Norwegian to have made the last four of a Slam with the 23-year-old eighth player, one of the best players on clay.

His grueling quarter-final win over 19-year-old Holger Rune was his 65th on clay since the 2020 season. Seven of his eight titles have come on clay. Ruud has a 2-0 advantage over Cilic, including their only surface encounter in Rome.

Former world number three Cilic knocked out Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round, without facing a break point, and seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals with 33 aces and 88 winners.

Only two of his 20 career titles have come on clay, most recently in Istanbul in 2017.

Despite his surprise run to the last four, where he is comfortably the lowest seed, Cilic is content to maintain a low profile.

“I really don’t mind being in the spotlight. I just try to use my opportunities as much as possible in my career, every day, every game to give my best,” he said. -he declares.

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Post expires at 12:41pm on Sunday June 12th, 2022

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