Rafael Nadal insists playing aggressively is ‘the only way’ to thrive in a unique French Open environment following his quarter-final win over unseeded Jannik Sinner. (More Tennis News)
The 12-time Roland Garros champion admits the importance of adapting to the heavier balls and colder conditions during October in Paris.
The Spaniard booked a semi-final clash against Argentine 12th seed Diego Schwarztman with a straight sets win over Sinner but Nadal’s 98th victory in 100 French Open matches was far from straightforward.
The 34-year-old recovered from a break down in both the first and second sets to claim a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 triumph against the 19-year-old Italian.
Sinner showed remarkable composure for a French Open debutant and the slower ball movement made it difficult for Nadal to take control of baseline rallies in the French capital.
"Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power and great shots," Nadal said.
"For two sets it had been tough, especially at the end of that first set. I was lucky to come back at 6-5, having to break him back.
"The conditions here were a little bit difficult because he was hitting every ball very hard.
"For me, it was difficult, the ball – as you know very well – with this court, the speed is not there so for me it was difficult for me to pull him out of position.
"I think in the first set, I did much better and I finished it playing much more aggressive. That’s the only way."
Nadal progressed to the last four in the French capital for the 13th time in 16 years and his record in semi-finals and finals at Roland Garros is 24-0.
His semi-final opponent, Schwartzman, advanced in a five-set, five-hour epic against US Open champion Dominic Thiem earlier in the day, resulting in Nadal’s match not finishing until almost 1.30am local time.
"I’m very very happy to be in the semi-finals here again in Roland Garros,” Nadal added.
"No doubt this is the most important place and the most beautiful place to play.
"I’m very, very happy and now I have, I will say two days off - but almost one and a half - to practise, to rest, to recover and to try to be ready for that semi-final against Diego.”
Delight for Diego @dieschwartzman earns a first career Grand Slam semi-final surviving a 7-6(1) 5-7 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-2 marathon against Thiem in five hours and eight minutes.#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/xNnMDssgIH— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) October 6, 2020
Nadal was beaten by Schwartzman, 6-2 7-5, in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open two weeks ago and the Spaniard believes he has learned lessons from the clay in Rome.
"When you lose to somebody, it’s because he is playing well," Nadal added.
"He played an amazing match today against one of the best players in the world without a doubt (Thiem).
"He’s coming with big confidence. Two weeks in a row, he is in the final in Rome and now the semi-finals here.
"He beat me there so that’s a plus of confidence for him.
"I know that and I am going to try to go on court, play my best, try to play my game, play aggressivetry to do something a little bit different than what I did in Rome."