French Open: Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud are in the final on the day of injury and protest drama

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French Open: Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud are in the final on the day of injury and protest drama

Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final on Friday as Alexander Zverev was forced to retire from the round of 16 after suffering a disgusting right ankle injury on a dramatic day at Roland Garros. On Sunday, Nadal will face Casper Ruud, the first Norwegian to play a league game at the majors, in his 30th Grand Slam final.

Nadal was up 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 when Zverev was forced to retire, while Ruud defeated Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in their semi-final played on when an environmental protester ran into the square and tied herself to the net.

Zverev twisted his ankle as he chased the ball in front of the players’ boxes on Court Philippe Chatrier, where his shocked team and family were sitting.

As his piercing cries of pain echoed around the 15,000-seat pitch, a tear-stained Zverev was wheeled off in a wheelchair as a worried Nadal looked on.

Minutes later, the 25-year-old returned on crutches and conceded the match, with Nadal hugging his heartbroken opponent.

“If you’re human, you feel sorry for a colleague,” said 13-time French Open winner Nadal.

“It’s very hard and very sad for him. He played an incredible tournament and he’s a very good colleague on the tour.

“I know how hard he is fighting to win a Grand Slam. He was very unlucky at the moment. I’m sure he won’t win one, but much more than one. I wish him all the best.”

Cry

He added: “For me, to be in the Roland Garros final is without a doubt a dream, but at the same time, for it to end like this… I was there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that…”

Zverev later said he “suffered a very serious injury”.

“It was a very difficult moment on the pitch. It looks like a very serious injury but the medical team is still examining it and I will keep you informed,” he said.

“But congratulations to Rafa, it’s an incredible achievement to be in the final for the 14th time.

“I hope he goes all the way and makes more history.”

By the dramatic end of the match, Zverev had pushed Nadal to the limit.

In a roller coaster ride 91 minutes into the opener, Zverev broke in the opening game before Nadal equalized 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 strike kept him in play.

Nadal, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Friday, then saved four set points in a knife-edge tiebreak, one of them after a spectacular running crosscourt forehand.

A searing forehand pass gave him the opener with a sixth set point.

Zverev, playing in the Roland Garros semi-finals for the second straight year, hit 25 winners and 26 unforced errors.

The second set was punctuated by eight breaks of serve. When Nadal broke to make it 2-1, he did so after a grueling 44-shot rally.

Nadal is the second oldest man to reach the final in Paris after 37-year-old Bill Tilden, who finished second in 1930.

With the victory, Nadal, who defeated world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, equaled 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 lifted the title in 1972.

“Idol” Nadal

Nadal reached the final despite his own doubts about his long-term future in the sport.

A chronic left foot injury has forced him to admit any game could be the last of his record-breaking French Open career.

It took him over four hours to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets in the round of 16, and then another four hours to defeat Djokovic in four sets.

Ruud was the first Norwegian to reach a Slam final and celebrated Nadal as his “idol”.

World number eight Ruud fired 16 aces and 41 winners behind 2014 US Open champion Cilic.

However, there was a worrying safety breach in the third set when a protester ran onto the pitch and tied her neck to the net.

She was wearing a shirt that read, “We have 1028 days left” before she was finally freed by security forces. The game resumed with a 15-minute delay.

“It was a great match from my side, I didn’t have the best start but Marin played a very good first set,” said 23-year-old Ruud.

“I look up to Rafa. He’s the perfect example of how to behave on the pitch, never gives up and never complains. He’s been my idol all my life.”

Ruud described the protest as a “tricky and difficult situation”.

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“I only saw her from behind, I didn’t know if she was holding something or what was around her neck.”

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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