Alexander Zverev receives medical attention after sustaining an injury as Rafael Nadal looks on in Paris on Friday. Reuters
Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final when Alexander Zverev was forced to quit their semi-final after suffering a sickening right ankle injury on Friday.
Zverev had to leave the court in a wheelchair after turning his ankle as he chased down the ball in front of the players' boxes on Court Philippe Chatrier where his team and family were sitting.
The German was trailing 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 after more than three hours of play at the time of the horror injury. As his piercing screams of pain echoed around the 15,000-seater court, a tearful Zverev was helped from the court by medics.
Minutes later, the 25-year-old returned on crutches and conceded the match, with Nadal embracing his heartbroken opponent.
Alexander Zverev (C) is assisted as he lies on court after being injured during his semi-final singles match against Rafael Nadal (L). AFP
"It's very tough and very sad for him. He was playing an unbelievable tournament and he's a very good colleague on the tour," said 13-time champion Nadal.
"I know how much he's fighting to win a Grand Slam. For the moment, he was very unlucky. I'm sure he'll win not one, but much more than one. I wish him all the best.
"It had been a super tough match. Over three hours and we didn't even finish the second set. It's one of the biggest challenges on the tour when he's playing like he did today."
He added: "For me, to be in the final of Roland Garros is a dream, without a doubt, but at the same time, for it to finish that way... I have been there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that — I wish him all the best." Nadal is chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title.
Until the dramatic end of the match, Zverev had been pushing Nadal all the way. In a rollercoaster, 91-minute first set, Zverev broke in the opening game before Nadal levelled at 4-4.
The Spaniard, dripping with sweat under the closed roof, saw three set points come and go in the 10th game as the German's all-or-nothing hitting kept him in the match.
Nadal, celebrating his 36th birthday on Friday, then saved four set points in a knife-edge tiebreak, one of them off a spectacular running crosscourt forehand.
A blistering forehand pass gave him the opener on a sixth set point.
Zverev, playing in the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the second successive year, hit 25 winners and 26 unforced errors.
The second set was punctuated by eight breaks of serve. When Nadal broke for 2-1, he did so on the back of an exhausting 44-shot rally.
Nadal becomes the second oldest man to make the final in Paris after 37-year-old Bill Tilden who was runner-up in 1930.
Victory saw Nadal, who knocked out world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, take his record at the French Open to 111 wins and just three losses.
If he wins on Sunday, he would be the tournament's oldest champion, eclipsing 34-year-old compatriot Andres Gimeno who took the title in 1972.
Nadal has made his 30th Grand Slam final despite his own doubts over his long-term future in the sport. A chronic left foot injury has forced him to admit that any match may be the last of his record-breaking French Open career.
He needed over four hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets in the last-16 and then required another four hours to defeat Djokovic in four sets.
Murray to have reached the semi-finals of all four Slams.
Cilic, ranked 23 in the world, was in his first last-four at the majors since 2018 when he was runner-up to Federer at the Australian Open.
Ruud is the first Norwegian man ever to make this stage of a Slam but the eighth-ranked 23-year-old was one of the form players on clay.
His testy quarter-final win over 19-year-old Holger Rune was his 65th on clay since the 2020 season. Seven of his eight titles have come on the surface.
Former world number three Cilic knocked out world number two Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round, without facing a break point, and seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals on the back of 33 aces and 88 winners.
Only two of his 20 career titles have come on clay courts, the most recent of which was at Istanbul in 2017.
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