On Friday, his 36th birthday, Rafael Nadal found himself in a familiar area: the semifinals of the Roland Garros for the 15th time. Generations of players have met him there and have been flattened. At the time, the potential roadkill was No. 3 pick Sasha Zaverev, but for once, the 25-year-old didn’t look too bad. Zverev was playing the best tennis of his life in a big tournament; Nadal’s chronic leg pain has plagued him throughout the season, and he is tired from two consecutive matches against Felix Agar-Aliasime and Novak Djokovic that exceeded the four-hour limit. The match promised the same punishment: the conditions under the closed roof were hot and humid, and the players could not finish even two sets in three hours. What happened to a ruthless death procession in a fast and violent fashion at 7-6 (8), 6-6, when Zaverev slipped on a moving forehand and rolled his right ankle. He screamed and groaned in pain, got out of court in a wheelchair and returned to the crutch to retire.

(If you’re interested, you can check out the hit here.)

Zverev’s frustration was that he could have won the match. For all his success on the tour, the Slammers have avoided him. By sending white-hot Carlos Alcaraz to the quarter-finals, Zverev ended his 0-11 career fight against top-10 opponents in the main tournament. He looked ready to fight in this semifinal. Conditions were favorable for him: since it was raining at the beginning of the season, the roof of Philippe-Chatrier was closed, which made the situation worse and slower than Nadal preferred. (After losing one point, he looked at his box and threw up two hands to frame a large piece of air, as if the ball were moving like a watermelon.) In the tiebreak of the first set, Zverev set up four. Raffer’s point, one of which he ruined with a butchered volley, and some of which, like Nadal’s heroism, were erased like this sunken forehand pass:

Nadal took it. Seeing the effort of the first set eroded, the players broke the serve in eight of the first nine games, opening the second with sloping and uncomfortable tennis. Among all that ugly were the cat-rat a few obligatory points, including A 44-stroke exchange, The physicality of the assembly took the lives of men from both legs. They advance to another tiebreak, and then Zverev is wiped out.

Who had Nadal Kind words to his opponent Later, the pain is no stranger. He says he will talk about his injury condition right after the tournament, that he and his doctor have reached a short-term solution, but there is nothing that actually fixes the debilitating condition of the foot that still hampers his career. He said he wanted to Rather have a new leg Sunday than a 14th title.

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