The 12-time champion at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal withstood an early challenge from 19-year-old Jannik Sinner and pulled away to gain their quarterfinal 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 in a match that ended at nearly 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in Paris on a windy night with the temperature in the low 50s.
Competition can continue that deep into the night 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,” said Nadal, 34. “But the problem is the weather. It’s too cold to play. Honestly, it’s very, very cold to play tennis, no?”
He added that it was a “little bit dangerous for the body play with these very heavy conditions.”
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Their quarterfinal initiated after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. It was the last match of the day’s packed schedule at Court Philippe Chatrier, which went longer than anticipated thanks to No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman’s five-hour, five-set triumph 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 will take a 9-1 head-to-head edge against Schwartzman into their match 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 stated, “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, which includes 24-0 in semifinals and finals.
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