Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final on Friday when Alexander Zverev was forced to quit their semi-final after suffering a sickening right ankle injury.
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.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
As his piercing screams of pain echoed around the 15,000-seater court, a tearful beast 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.
“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 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, chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title, will play either Marin Cilic or Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final.
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 leveled at 4-4.
The Spaniard, dripping with sweat under the closed roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, 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 Friday, then saved four set points in a knife-edge tie-break, 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 in the set.
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.
Zverev also collected a warning for bad language as the set headed towards another tie-break.
However, that became quickly irrelevant when his attempt to reach a second Grand Slam final ended in such dramatic circumstances.
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 gives Nadal, who knocked out world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, a 111-3 record at the French Open.
RUUD SETS-UP FRENCH OPEN FINAL AGAINST ‘IDOL’ NADAL
Casper Ruud became the first Norwegian man to reach a Grand Slam final on Friday when he set-up a French Open title clash with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, the man he described as his “idol”.
World number eight Ruud defeated Croatia’s Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in a semi-final which was held up when a protester ran onto the court and tied himself by the neck to the net.
She wore a shirt which bore the slogan: “We have 1028 days left” before being eventually cut free by security staff.
The match resumed after a 15-minute delay.
Ruud fired 16 aces and 41 winners past 2014 US Open champion Cilic.
“It was a great match from my side, I didn’t start the greatest but Marin played a very good first set,” said the 23-year-old Norwegian.
“I look up to Rafa. He’s the perfect example of how to behave on the court, never gives up and never complains. He’s been my idol all my life.
“He’s the last player of the Big Three that I’ve never played against, so I guess this is perfect timing. To play him in a Grand Slam final will be great. Hopefully for him too, to be playing against a student from his academy. ”