World No.2 Rafael Nadal has stormed into the semi-finals of the French Open without dropping a set, despite being pushed by rising star Jannik Sinner in their quarter-final showdown.
Nadal's quest for a record-extending 13th title at Roland Garros gathered momentum, following a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-1 victory against the Italian.
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The Spaniard, also looking to match Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam men's singles titles, was stretched like rarely before by the 19-year-old Sinner.
However, the 19-time major winner came up with the big points when it mattered to set up a revenge match against Diego Schwartzman in the final four.
Argentina's Schwartzman is the last man to have beaten the King of clay on his favoured surface, inflicting an Italian Open quarter-finals defeat on Nadal just last month.
"It's a challenge to play Diego," Nadal admitted after his quarter-final victory.
"If I lost to him (it) is because he is playing well. He is one of the best players in the world.
"Final in Rome, semifinals here. He beat me there and that's a plus of confidence for him before our match."
Nadal goes into the match with Schwartzman with a 9-1 advantage in head-to-head clashes, and the Spaniard's most recent display has fans convinced he can claim a 13th French Open title.
Nadal has a 98-2 record at Roland Garros? Ridiculously incredible. Lool herh— Stanislas Poniatotowski (@Cpt_Tintin) October 6, 2020
If Nadal goes on to win the French Open this year, it just won’t be his 20th grand slam win (making him equal top grand slam winner with Fed), as well as his 13th RG title but also his 100th win at #RolandGarros ! Vamossss Rafa let’s make history!— kiki. (@nicolee_hanna) October 6, 2020
100th match at Roland Garros and 98th win for Rafael Nadal. Rafael Nadal is only 6 sets away from his 13th Roland Garros and 20th Grand Slam title! No stopping the legend! #RolandGarros— PP (@PrashantSport) October 6, 2020
Nadal beats a 19-year-old of great potential: Jannik Sinner 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 to reach another French Open semi. Will face Diego Schwartzman, who beat him in Rome last month. But beating Nadal at Roland Garros remains one of sport's ultimate challenges— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) October 6, 2020
Still chasing #13 and #20 pic.twitter.com/B7446bMEBy
Nadal chasing century of French Open wins
Nadal's 97 previous victories at Roland Garros made the difference in the key moments with the Spaniard rallying from a break down in the first two sets.
Sinner, the first French Open debutant to reach the last eight since Nadal in 2005, confirmed his immense potential but lacked just a bit of composure when it mattered.
"Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power, great shots," Nadal said after a match played in cold conditions that ended at 0126 local time, the latest finish at a French Open.
"For two sets it was tough, especially in the second set I was lucky to be back.
"The conditions were a little bit difficult, he was hitting every ball very hard and with this cold, my speed is not there. It was hard for me to put him out of position.
"Now I have two, well almost one and a half days off to rest and practice."
Sinner hit powerful groundstrokes, putting Nadal on the backfoot in many rallies on court Philippe Chatrier, only for the Mallorcan to unlock his own massive forehand to turn the tide.
Dominic Thiem's bid for French Open glory has been scuppered after the Austrian came up short in an epic five-setter against Schwartzman.
Thiem, who won the US Open just 23 days ago, finally wilted in the deciding set in an exhausting match of considerable quality.
After more than five hours of gripping drama, 5ft 7in Schwartzman, one of the more diminutive figures on the circuit, must have felt 10ft tall as he wrapped up a 7-6 (7-1) 5-7 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory.
Schwartzman, a good friend of Thiem's, said: "Dominic is one of the best players right now in the world.
"He won the last grand slam, he is a two-time finalist here, and I have a lot of respect for him.
"That's why this match is very important for me. I played a few five-setters here and I never won. I think at the end this night I deserved to win."
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