Rafa Nadal spotted in telling move before French Open dramas

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Rafa Nadal, pictured here using sawdust to try and keep his hands dry at the French Open.
Rafa Nadal was seen using sawdust to try and keep his hands dry at the French Open. Image: Eurosport

Before the dramas that engulfed the French Open semi-finals at Roland Garros on Friday, Rafa Nadal was spotted in a tactical move rarely seen from the Spanish champion.

There were disturbing scenes at the clay-court major during the men's semi-finals as Alexander Zverev was forced to retire hurt with a horrible ankle injury, before Casper Ruud's clash with Marin Cilic was delayed by a court invader who tied herself to the net.

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But before all that, eagle-eyed tennis fans noticed Nadal taking extraordinary steps to combat the humid and sweaty conditions in Paris.

Nadal, a notorious sweater who likes to take his time between points, could be seen putting his hands in a bag of sawdust in an attempt to dry them out and keep them from getting too much sweat on the balls.

According to reports, he also avoided putting balls in his pockets for the same reason.

Early in the match, Nadal could be heard telling the chair umpire he was 'trying' to go faster between points as he frantically tried to dry his hands and the balls.

The umpire admitted even he was feeling the oppressive conditions in the chair and was understandably giving the players some leeway when the shot clock was nearing zero.

American legend John McEnroe took aim at Nadal during his quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic for flouting the shot clock rules.

"He should be penalised," McEnroe said in commentary for Eurosport.

"If you are going to do it, do it, otherwise don't bother. It is like humouring everyone.

"It's a joke. He takes a look at the clock again… one. He’s edging it, isn’t he? Shouldn’t they have it at 15 seconds on the second serve? 10? Something?

"Or don’t bother. It’s like, you can take as much time as you want on the second serve. How long is this game? 12 minutes? Jeez."

Rafa Nadal, pictured here battling hot and sweaty conditions against Alexander Zverev.
Rafa Nadal was battling hot and sweaty conditions against Alexander Zverev. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

French Open semi-finals rocked by dramatic scenes

Nadal was leading 7-6 (10-8) 6-6 against Zverev on Friday when disaster struck for the World No.3 and he was unable to continue.

The German's ankle buckled horribly while he was retrieving a ball on his forehand side and he was taken from the court in a wheelchair.

He later returned on crutches and informed Nadal and the umpire that he couldn't continue.

In a video message on Twitter, the 25-year-old later said: "A very difficult moment for me today on the court.

"Obviously a fantastic match until what happened, happened.

"It looks like I have a very serious injury. But the medical team and the doctors are still checking on it."

Alexander Zverev, pictured here rolling his ankle against Rafa Nadal at the French Open.
Alexander Zverev rolled his ankle and had to retire hurt against Rafa Nadal. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Ruud later advanced to the final despite a climate change protester invading the court and tying herself to the net in the third set.

The woman was wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan: ‘We have 1028 days left’.

She managed to walk onto Court Phillipe-Chatrier unchallenged, raising serious questions about security.

She was eventually carried from the arena by security guards, with play delayed by about 15 minutes as a result.

Ruud managed to overcome the disruption to prevail 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 - becoming the first Norwegian man to reach the final of a grand slam.

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