June 7, 2018
Juan Martin del Potro broke down in tears as he soaked up the adoration of the Roland Garros crowd.
In the Battle of the Giants, Delpo outplayed Marin Cilic and clinched victory 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.
In his signature celebration, the popular power-house from Argentina stretched out his arms and stared at the heavens, scarcely believing that he could still experience the joy of a big win.
As his tears flowed, he explained: ‘I nearly had to quit this sport because of all the operations I needed on my injured wrist so this is such a great feeling to reach the semi-finals here.
‘And now I play Rafa and that is the challenge every player wants.’ Looking over at the appreciative crowd, he added: ‘I may not win but I will carry your love and for me that is more important.’
After Nadal dropped a set against Diego Schwartzman, he suddenly looked human once more, and beatable. But the rain changed everything. And from the moment the players came back, Rafa took charge to reel off the last three sets and the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Nadal admitted: ‘It was like two different matches. After the rain I was able to play more aggressive tennis, and I felt more relaxed.’
The incredible Nadal’s run of 37 consecutive sets at Roland Garros came to an end though, and Del Potro will hope he can make a dent in the Spaniard’s armoury too.
In the showdown between the world number one, Simona Halep and the powerful Garbine Muguruza, there was only going to be one winner right from the start.
Halep might have had reason for self-doubt after Muguruza swept Maria Sharapova off court in her previous match. The South American-born Spaniard had looked unstoppable.
But in fact the diminutive Romanian played super-aggressive tennis right from the first point and generated some truly brutal stroke-play, which her opponent simply couldn’t handle.
Muguruza, not used to being blown off court, looked genuinely shocked by the venom behind Halep’s shots.
Suddenly Muguruza appeared to have imploded mentally. And she only managed to grab one consolation game in a 25-minute first set.
The Wimbledon champion did pull her game together temporarily in the second, but Halep – who has never won a Grand Slam – wasn’t to be denied.
She thoroughly deserved her 6-1, 6-4 victory, which protected her number one status. Will it be third time lucky for Simona in the Roland Garros final?
On this kind of form it will take something very special indeed to stop her lifting the winner’s trophy at last.