When Rafael Nadal extended his incredible Major SF streak

One thing you did not want to do in the latter stages of Majors between 2005 and 2018 was to meet Rafael Nadal in the semis. The Spaniard played in his first Major semi-final at Roland Garros 2005 and added 27 semis to his tally by Roland Garros 2018. During those 13 years, Rafa lost only three Major semi-finals in 2008 and 2009, winning the remaining 24 and earning many chances to claim a Major trophy. Nadal improved his score in the Major semi-finals to a mind-blowing 24-3 following a one-sided 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Juan Martin del Potro at Roland Garros 2018. The Spaniard needed two hours and ten minutes to emerge at the top and advance into the 11th Roland Garros final. It was Rafa’s 450th ATP clash on clay and the 414th victory, losing only 36 matches on the beloved surface at that moment. Nadal ousted del Potro for the tenth time in 15 encounters and notched the 236th Major win. It was Juan Martin’s best result in Paris in nine years, but he could not fight for a place in the final after losing ground in sets two and three.

Nadal played against seven break points, six in the opener. He fended off them all and mounted the pressure on the other side. Del Potro served at 75%, but that did not bring him anything, especially after the opening four service games. The Argentine lost 45% of the points in his games and got broken five times from nine opportunities offered to Rafa. The Spaniard played impressive tennis after taking the opening set, especially in the second when he outplayed del Potro entirely to march towards the finish line. Nadal had 35 winners and 19 unforced errors, while Delpo fired 20 winners and 32 mistakes. He failed to impose his shots or move Nadal from his comfort zone. The Argentine could have only stood a chance had he played aggressive tennis and used every opportunity to attack. Juan Martin did that in the opening set to deliver four comfortable holds and push Rafa to the limits on the return. Nadal defended three break points in the opener’s third game and landed a forehand winner at 3-3 to remain on the positive side.

Rafael Nadal advanced into the 11th Roland Garros final in 2018.

Serving well, Juan Martin fired an ace in the eighth game for a hold at love and 4-4. Pushing the defending champion to the limits, the Argentine created two break points in game nine with a backhand down the line winner. Nadal erased them and closed the game with a volley winner at the net for an enormous boost. Returning at 5-4, Rafa created set points with a forehand winner and seized the second when his rival netted a backhand for 6-4 in 53 minutes. Juan Martin lost steam and netted a forehand in the second set’s first game for a break at love.

Rafa saved a break point in game three to open a 3-0 gap, and he extended it with another break and a 5-0 advantage. Del Potro sprayed a backhand mistake in the seventh game to hand the set to Rafa and fall further behind. The Argentine had nothing left in the tank for set number three, and the Spaniard sailed towards the top. Nadal kicked off the third set with a break at love thanks to a backhand down the line winner. The defending champion grabbed game two at love with a forehand down the line winner and delivered the second break at 3-1 with a backhand crosscourt return winner. Juan Martin held at love with a smash winner at the net while serving to stay in the match at 1-5. The Spaniard served for the victory in game eight and fired a service winner to sail into the 11th Roland Garros final from 14 appearances.