French Open: Rafael Nadal sweeps Diego Schwartzman for a 13th finals appearance in Paris
Nadal roars after winning a key point (Photo: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT)

A Rome rematch awaited in the first semifinal as Rafael Nadal faced off against Diego Schwartzman. The two men met at the 2018 French Open where the Argentine played some stellar tennis for a set and a half before play paused overnight due to rain, and the Argentine hoped he could find that form plus his form from Rome to pull off a massive upset.

It would be the Spaniard who would be the first to book his spot in the final this fortnight, his 13th final on the Parisian clay, defeating Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(0) as he awaits the winner of Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the other semifinal.

Battling It Out

Right out of the gates, an immense 14-minute service game with long, intense rallies kicked off the affair. Nadal held in that game and broke in the following game after a couple of errors from the Argentine, including a missed routine forehand into the net.

The two would break twice more in the following games, but it was the 12th-seeded Argentine who was hitting his way through the slower conditions much easier. Despite that, the 12-time champion here in Paris was more than up to the task, securing the first consolidation of a break in the match.

Nadal eventually closed out the set but was made to work for it, something you would expect he would have to do against a feisty opponent like Schwartzman. After two set points were saved, the Spaniard set up another one with a beautiful drop shot and took the set after the world number 14 missed a backhand into the net.

Schwartzman found the conditions easy to hit through early on (Photo: Clive Brunskill)
Schwartzman found the conditions easy to hit through early on (Photo: Clive Brunskill)

Clay Control

Quick off the mark in set two was the world number two. After two love holds from each player to open the set, he forced a backhand error from the Argentine to move ahead in the set. Nadal consolidated with no issues with a set and a break deficit looking like a tough ask for the Argentine to comeback from.

Schwartzman, a fighter in every sense of the word, sensed an opening at 0-30 in the sixth game of the set. Nadal's response to the deficit? Massive.  The Argentine number one just missed a backhand wide for what would have been a 0-40 lead, and Nadal took control from there. A forehand down the line setting up two overheads, an inside-out forehand winner, and then a drop shot to close out the game.

Despite recovering from a 0-40 deficit on his own service game, Schwartzman could find no momentum after that as Nadal moved into a two sets to love lead.

Nadal on Philippe Chatrier is different gravy. Schwartzman had won 55% of return games coming into the match and at the beginning of the third, he had only won 10% against Nadal. Errors piled into the Argentine's second service game of the third set, with Nadal quickly moving into a 3-1 lead and full control of the match.

Nadal fired up after winning key points (Photo: Shaun Botterill)
Nadal fired up after winning key points (Photo: Shaun Botterill)

The Fight Back

At 30-30, Nadal got to the Schwartzman drop shot but missed his trademark forehand into the net as the movement of the Argentine to cover the line may have caught the Spaniard's eye. Back-to-back errors from deuce gave the 12 seed life back into the match.

What was thought of as a lifeline immediately was dismissed with an immediate break back at love from Nadal in the following game. The fight of Schwartzman and an odd spell from the Spanish number one which was error-filled. After having taken what looked to be full control of the match at two sets and a break up, the score was all of a sudden tied at 4-all in the third.

A massive 11th game of the set saw Schwartzman with two break points at 15-40. Three straight forehand winners put Nadal back in control of the game, but once again, was pushed to just get a hold of serve.

Schwartzman quickly held to force a tiebreak and hoped to keep the pressure on Nadal. It was anything but that, with the Spaniard out in full force. He answered everything the 28-year-old Argentine threw at him, even in the points at the net. The tiebreak was one-way traffic as Nadal closed out the match with a faultless breaker without a single point dropped.