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Ricky’s tennis picks for the | French Open semifinals: Nadal vs. Zverev

Rafa Nadal celebrates after beating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros on May 31, 2022 in Paris. (Photo by Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

Both Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev probably feel like they should already be in the French Open final. One of them, however, will be ousted in the semis on Friday afternoon.

Nadal needed five sets to get past Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round, after which he outlasted world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) on Tuesday night. That quarterfinal contest between the two all-time greats lasted four hours and 12 minutes. Fortunately for Nadal, he has two full days off prior to the semis and his first three matches–against Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet, and Botic van de Zandschulp–were walks in the park.

Zverev was one point away from being bounced out in the second round. The third-ranked German came back from the brink of defeat to beat Sebastian Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5. Zverev also got the best of Sebastian Ofner, Brandon Nakashima, and Bernabe Zapata Miralles to reach the last 16, where he upset Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7) on Tuesday.

Needless to say, it has not been easy for either man.

Alexander Zverev beat Madrid champion Carlos Alcaraz.

But they have made it to semifinal Friday, and their reward is a 10th career head-to-head meeting. Nadal holds a 6-3 lead in the series, including 4-1 on clay. They faced each other twice last spring on the red stuff, with Zverev pulling off a 6-4, 6-4 upset in Madrid before Nadal–playing in far more favorable conditions–gained revenge in the form of a 6-3, 6-4 victory at the Madrid Masters.

Conditions should be back in the 35-year-old’s favor on Friday. His quarterfinal showdown against Djokovic was played late at night, but the first semifinal between Nadal and Zverev is scheduled for 2:45 pm local. That’s much better for the Spaniard’s game, even though–let’s be honest–it hardly matters what the situation is whenever he takes the court at Roland Garros. After all, Nadal is 110-3 lifetime at this tournament with 13 titles.

He can’t win No. 14 on Friday, but he can put himself in great position. And given his form throughout the fortnight and two full days of rest following his hard-fought defeat of Djokovic, that is exactly what Nadal can be expected to do.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.