Rafael Nadal is in the Roland-Garros final. Normal, one would be tempted to say, as the Spanish player is accustomed to the fact. Since 2005 and his first steps on the Parisian ocher, the Majorcan has now extracted himself fourteen times from the last four. Friday, June 3, the day of his 36th birthday, Nadal benefited from the abandonment of his opponent, the German Alexander Zverev, injured when the second round was not completed – after more than three hours of play (7- 6 [10-8], 6-6).

In a disjointed game, and in the oven of the covered Philippe-Chatrier court (due to the storms threatening the Paris region), the two opponents fought an intense fight. Failing to achieve the mastery of certain matches disputed by Nadal – such as his victory on Wednesday against Novak Djokovic in the quarters – the two men incessantly hung on.

After 1:31 of play, they barely completed the first set, won in the decisive game by Nadal, and were already trying to catch their breath. Although ahead of the mark, the man with thirteen crowns at the Grand Slam tournament at Porte d’Auteuil struggled against the world number 3, firmly determined to beat the owner of the place, and climb to the final.

The second set, just as hotly contested, saw the players take turns in each other’s service game (eight breaks in all in this set), making the outcome of the set uncertain. Between some points disputed until running out of breath (an exchange went up to 44 blows) and big faults on both sides, very clever who could have predicted the outcome of the meeting.

“Over three hours of play and we haven’t even finished the second set”

Until this stroke of fate, after three hours and thirteen minutes of play. While Rafael Nadal had the possibility of equalizing with six games everywhere, and sending the two men back in a new tie-break, Alexander Zverev s is high, on the right of the court. His forehand went off the court, but the crowd – largely won over to Nadal’s cause – didn’t really show their joy. On impulse, the German’s right foot spun violently, and “Sacha” rolled onto the clay of center court.

In tears and unable to get up on his own, the player was forced out of the field in a wheelchair. After endless minutes, the German returned to the court, using crutches, to signify his abandonment. And benefit from a huge ovation from the public, saluting his courage.

“We played a huge game, more than three hours of play, and we didn’t even finish the second set…”, greeted Rafael Nadal, winner by default, at the microphone of Mats Wilander. “I’m very sad for him, he was playing incredibly well, and I know how hard he fights to win a Grand Slam tournament. And I know he’s not going to win one, but many more. I wish him a lot of courage. The player hugged Zverev for a long time when the latter returned to the court.

“For me to be in the final again here is huge, but at the same time it’s really strange to do it under these circumstances,” agreed Nadal, who “benefited” for the second time from his career, an opponent’s injury at Roland-Garros. In 2017, the Majorcan qualified for the semi-finals following the retirement of his compatriot Pablo Carreno-Busta.

Once again, Rafael Nadal is therefore in the final of Roland-Garros. Even if the circumstances are not what he imagined, the Majorcan will play his fourteenth final at Porte d’Auteuil on Sunday, against the winner of the second semi-final, between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic. He has won the thirteen he has previously contested.