Rafael Nadal, 13-time French Open champion, overcame his biggest hurdle, defending champion Novak Djokovic, in the quest for a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title but he still has to get past the young and dynamic Alexander Zverev for a spot in the Roland-Garros final.
Zverev will have a chance to spoil the birthday party for Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday, and victory for the third seed would keep the Olympic champion on course for a maiden major title and the chance to climb to the top of the rankings.
The Spaniard holds a 6-3 edge in the head-to-head rivalry with Zverev, but the German has won three of their past four clashes. The left-hander, who won the Australian Open in January for a record 21st major title, will be fully focused.
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“I am not the kind of guy and player that emotionally goes high and low. I am very stable, I think, emotionally,” Nadal said.
‘SUPPOSED TO WIN’
Zverev, who reached the 2020 U.S. Open final, beat the first top-10 opponent at a Grand Slam in 12 attempts when he took down Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz, ranked sixth, in the quarter-finals.
“At the end of the day, I said a lot of times, I’m not 20 or 21 years old anymore; I’m 25. I am at the stage where I want to win, I’m at the stage where I’m supposed to win, as well,” Zverev said.
Seven-times Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander feels the Parisian weather is going to play a key role.
“I am expecting a very close match. I think the weather conditions are going to be extremely important,” Eurosport tennis expert Wilander said. “For once the sun and the heat is not going to favour Nadal.
“It’s going to be great for Zverev, for his first serve, it’s going to be nearly impossible to return. And if that is the case then he can relax a little bit in Rafa’s service games.
“But, of course, beating Rafa in five sets, there’s a lot more than playing well that you have to do. So Rafa’s slight favourite in my eyes but hot conditions will favour Zverev I think.”