Rafael Nadal advanced to the French Open final for a 14th time on Friday after third seed Alexander Zverev was forced to retire hurt with an ankle injury while trailing the Spaniard 7-6(8), 6-6.
In an absorbing contest that lasted more than three hours before the abrupt ending, Zverev missed four set points during the first set tiebreak, reports Reuters.
The German had been giving the 13-time Roland Garros champion a run for his money until he screamed out in agony after rolling his right ankle in the final point of the 12th game of the second set.
Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday and is in pursuit of a men’s record-extending 22nd Grand Slam crown, will face either Croatia’s Marin Cilic or Norway’s Casper Ruud on Sunday.
“Tough now. Very sad, he was playing an unbelievable tournament, he’s a very good colleague on the tour,” Nadal said. “I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam.”
“It was a super tough match. Over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set. Of course being in the final of Roland Garros is a dream without a doubt but at the same time that it finishes that way is tough. Seeing him cry like this is a tough moment.”
The 25-year-old Zverev, bidding for a maiden Grand Slam title, had matched the Spaniard with his power throughout the contest, with both players wasting set points in the first set, and Nadal coming out on top in the tiebreak after 91 minutes.
With the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier shut due to rain in the French capital, Nadal failed to hold serve throughout the second set as Zverev raced to a 5-3 lead.
But again he could not serve out the set, being broken as Nadal benefited from a string of mistakes by the German, including three double faults in the very next game to break him and eventually draw level.
Zverev refused to surrender and twisted his ankle as he sprinted in his effort to retrieve a shot and had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair.
After several minutes he returned to the arena on crutches to concede the match, hugging his opponent and waving to the crowd.