Nadal powers into semis

Nadal powers into semis

Juan Martin del Potro

Rafael Nadal battled back from a set down to beat Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in their rain-interruped French Open quarterfinal on Thursday, edging closer to an 11th title in Paris.

The world number one was much-improved under the sunshine on Court Philippe Chatrier after finding life difficult in damp conditions the night before, finally seeing off dogged Argentinian Schwartzman on his fourth match point.

Nadal will face either fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro in the last four after the Argentine overcame Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

“It was a very difficult match, Diego is a good friend and a good player,” said the 16-time Grand Slam champion.

“After the stop for rain I played more aggressively and I’m very happy to be back in the semi-finals here.”

It is the 11th time the 32-year-old Spaniard has reached the French Open last four, becoming only the third man in history to achieve the feat at a Grand Slam tournament, after Jimmy Connors at the US Open and Roger Federer at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

Nadal returned to the court midway through serving to level the match after bad weather ended play early on Wednesday evening. The struggles he faced on Wednesday in losing a set at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015 were put to bed during the second day of the match, as he broke 11th seed Schwartzman’s serve four times in the final two sets to ease through.

Del Potro has looked one of the biggest threats to Nadal’s domination this year, with his pulverising forehand dismantling everyone in his path on the Parisian clay.

After dropping the opening set of his first round match he won the next 12.

But Cilic, who like Del Potro stands 1.98m tall, owns a US Open title, has a beast of a serve and always looked like being his first serious test. And so it proved.

After returning to a sunny Court Suzanne Lenglen locked at 5-5 in the first set tiebreak after battle was halted because of rain on Wednesday, Del Potro flirted with danger before racking up an eighth win in succession against Cilic. “Well, it’s tough to speak,” the 29-year-old said .

The first set always looked key and Del Potro clinched the opener as Cilic blinked first, netting a routine forehand on the second point of the second installment of the match.

The second set, like the first, was dominated by serve until Cilic fired himself up to break at 4-4 -- a furious Del Potro throwing his racket at the changeover.

Croatian Cilic played an awful game when serving for the set, making four unforced errors, but he was gifted another chance to serve for the set after breaking Del Potro again and levelled the match at the second time of asking. Del Potro dipped at the start of the third and Cilic had points for a double break.

However, the burly Argentine recovered his drive to hit back from 0-2 and take the third set. Cilic kept his nose in front in the fourth but failed to take the game to the decider.