French Open: Rafael Nadal survives rare scare to advance to semi-finals with win over Diego Schwartzman

Rafael Nadal has dropped a set at Roland Garros for the first time in two years, but roared back to beat 10th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 to reach the French Open semi-finals.

Nadal will face Novak Djokovic in a mouthwatering contest for a place in the final, after the Serbian overcame Matteo Berrettini in his quarter-final tie.

Nadal had beaten Schwartzman twice before at Roland Garros, but seemed to have met his match, as the Argentine played with confidence, dominating the longer rallies, and for a brief moment it seemed he had exposed a chink in the Spaniard's armour.

Dominic Thiem was the last player to take a set off Nadal at the 2019 final, but Schwartzman ended the 13-time champion's run of 36 consecutive sets at Roland Garros.

"Losing sets is something I accepted during my tennis career," Nadal says. "The thing that matters is how you recover from a set lost."

Nadal stormed back into the match with a vengeance, wrapping up the final set in 26 minutes to move into his 14th Roland Garros semi-final, where he will play either top seed Novak Djokovic or Matteo Berrettini.

Early in the opening set, Schwartzman was forced to save two breakpoints, one electric rally ending when he won the point with a controlled lob over Nadal that earned the Spaniard's applause.

Nadal broke to love on Schwartzman's next service game with three consecutive winners to put pressure on the 28-year-old 10th seed, who broke back with a sharp forehand winner.

A second consecutive service break gave Nadal a 5-4 lead and this time he made no mistake on serve, closing out the set with a forehand winner down the line.

A fired-up Schwartzman raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set on the back of long rallies and clever approach shots to close out points, which forced Nadal to go on the defensive.

Nadal won 12 of the next 14 points to level at 3-3, but an unfazed Schwartzman found a higher gear to hold serve, taking a 5-4 lead, before breaking to level the match, as the Philippe Chatrier crowd roared its approval.

The third set went with serve, as both men played their attacking shots with precision.

But Schwartzman cracked at 4-4 and two loose shots allowed Nadal to take control, and he converted a break point to go 5-4 up, before serving out to love to lead two sets to one.

Rafael Nadal has advanced to the semi-final stage.
Rafael Nadal has advanced to the semi-final stage. Photo credit: Getty

Djokovic repelled a stirring fightback by Italian Berrettini to claim a 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5 victory in his quarter-final match.

Top seed Djokovic was given a mighty scare against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti on Tuesday (NZ  time), losing the first two sets, but seemed to be rolling towards a straightforward victory, after moving two sets ahead against Berrettini.

Djokovic broke serve for a 3-1 lead in the first set and, after Berrettini failed to convert a break point when trailing 4-2, the Serb sealed the opening set in routine fashion.

A clinical Djokovic cruised through the second set but Berrettini dug his heels in throughout the third set without managing to fashion a break point.

With the first night session crowd permitted getting behind the 25-year-old, Berrettini extended Djokovic into a tiebreak and bombed down a couple of aces and some venomous forehands.

Djokovic had the match on his racket at 5-4, however, but a couple of uncharacteristic errors gave Berrettini a set point that he converted with another thudding forehand.

Suddenly an energised Berrettini looked dangerous but the drama was halted, as the 5,000 fans were ordered to leave in line with Paris's 11pm COVID-19 curfew requirements, when Djokovic led 3-2 on serve in the fourth set.

After a 25-minute delay for the fans to leave, the battle resumed in silence and despite a heavy fall which grazed his hand, Djokovic sensed his moment when Berrettini served at 5-6.

Djokovic vented his anger as Berrettini saved a second match point with a brutal forehand and he then produced a series of deafening roars aimed at his entourage, after clinching the win at the third time of asking.