After midnight: Nadal beats Sinner for 13th French semifinal

After midnight: Nadal beats Sinner for 13th French semifinal

Add “latest-finishing match” and “13 semifinals reached” to the considerable roster of French Open records owned by Rafael Nadal.

The 12-time champion at Roland Garros withstood an early challenge from 19-year-old Jannik Sinner and pulled away to win 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 in a quarterfinal that ended at nearly 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday on a windy night with the temperature in the low 50s (teens Celsius).

Competition can continue that deep into the night in Paris this year because it’s the first time artificial lights are being used for play at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

“Of course it’s not ideal (to) finish a match at 1:30 in the morning. But the problem is the weather. It’s too cold to play. Honestly, it’s very, very cold to play tennis, no?” Nadal said, calling it a “little bit dangerous for the body play with these very heavy conditions.”

Their quarterfinal began after 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday. It was the last match of the day on a packed schedule at Court Philippe Chatrier, which included five contests instead of the usual four because one was postponed by rain a day earlier. And Nadal-Sinner also was delayed by No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman’s five-hour, five-set victory over No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

“I really don’t know why they put five matches on Chatrier today,” Nadal said. “That was a risk.”

No. 2 Nadal hasn’t lost a set in the tournament will take a 9-1 head-to-head edge against Schwartzman into their meeting in Friday’s semifinals.

“Two days to practice, to rest a little bit and to recover, and just try to be ready,” Nadal said.

Schwartzman has this going for him: He won their most recent matchup, beating Nadal last month on clay at a tuneup in Rome.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to have a lot of confidence,” Schwartzman said, “but, yeah, I know … that I can beat him. That’s important.”

Nadal is trying to win a 13th French Open title and 20th Grand Slam trophy overall, which would equal Roger Federer’s mark for men.

Among the many statistics that stand out about Nadal’s track record in Paris: He is 98-2 at the place, which includes 24-0 in semifinals and finals.

For the 75th-ranked Sinner, this was his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Consider this: Nadal turned pro in 2001, the year Sinner was born. Nadal made his French Open debut in 2005, turned 19 during the tournament, beat Federer in the semifinals and won the trophy.

No one since then had made it to the men’s quarterfinals at Roland Garros during his first appearance until Sinner this year. And he showed some of the groundstroke power and good footwork that helped eliminated U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev and 11th-seeded David Goffin earlier in the tournament.

“Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power. Great shots. For two sets, (it was) tough,” Nadal said. “He was hitting every ball very hard. And for me, it was difficult. The ball … with this cold, the spin is not there. So for me, it was difficult to pull him out of position.”

When the calendar still read “Tuesday,” Sinner nosed ahead, breaking for a 6-5 lead on Nadal’s wide forehand.

That allowed Sinner to serve for the opening set; he had yet to face a single break point.

That lead lasted all of eight minutes, because Nadal pushed right back, and broke right back, snapping off a pair of forehand winners to get to 6-all. Nadal leaped in the air to celebrate, the way he frequently did when he was the teen without all the trophies.

It didn’t take long for that set to be his via a tiebreaker. When Sinner’s forehand landed out, Nadal gritted his teeth and vigorously shook his left fist.

That pattern materialized again in the second set: Sinner broke first, to lead 3-1, and Nadal answered immediately with a break of his own.

And at crunch time in that set, it made sense that the far more experienced and far more accomplished Nadal would come through. With Sinner serving at 4-all, 40-15, Nadal reeled off four straight points — thanks in part to his famous, corner-to-corner baseline defence — to break, then served out the set.

“I had chances in the first set. I had chances in the second set. I didn’t use them,” Sinner said. “Obviously it’s tough against him. He’s not missing that much.”

To compound matters for Sinner, Nadal broke again to begin the third.

By then, while a half-dozen games were still to be played, the only remaining suspense involved which numbers, exactly, would be written on the scoreboard and on the courtside clock at the conclusion.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press

Tennis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats turn minority into majority in British Columbia election

The New Democrats won a majority government in the British Columbia election… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Most Read