French Open: Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens reach final – as it happened


Powered by article titled “French Open: Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens reach final – as it happened” was written by Katy Murrells, for on Thursday 7th June 2018 22.12 Asia/Kolkata

Friday’s order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier

1pm/12pm BST
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) vs Dominic Thiem [7]

Not before 3.30pm/2.30pm BST
Rafael Nadal [1] vs Juan Martin Del Potro [5]

Right that’s it from me. Thanks for your company, emails and tweets, and do join us tomorrow for the men’s semi-finals. Bye!

It’s the first time since 2001 that an American not named Williams has advanced to the final at Roland Garros. And the way Stephens has flourished over the last nine months shows that American tennis will not enter a void when Serena and Venus Williams do eventually retire.

So it’ll be Halep v Stephens in Saturday’s final in a match between two of the game’s great defenders and movers. Both will be reaching for their first French Open title, and Stephens her second slam in three after her unexpected triumph at the US Open last year. If they both play at their best, Halep will prevail. But we all know what happened in the French Open final last year. Halep must banish some demons.

Stephens speaks:

It’s always hard to play someone from your country and such a good friend, so I’m pleased to get through that. It’s another great opportunity on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to it.

She then shows off un petit peu of French:

Merci Paris, je t’aime.

Stephens beats Keys 6-4, 6-4 to set up a final against Halep!

So here’s Stephens’s second chance at serving for a place in the final against Halep. A strong start as she hits with depth and purpose, and once again Keys is spraying the ball around. 15-0, 30-0. 40-15, two match points. Stephens’s first serve is called out. She gets the second in, before sending a laser-like backhand down the line! Once again in a grand slam, Stephens gets the better of Keys, and she’s deservedly into her first French Open final! Keys smiles as she embraces the victor at the net but she must be sick of the sight of her so-called friend.

Stephens and Keys
The pair embrace after Stephens’s 6-4, 6-4 win. Photograph: Caroline Blumberg/EPA


Second set: Keys 4-6, 4-5 Stephens*

Gone are the errors from Keys, who turns up the power and pressure on Stephens with an emphatic hold. Perhaps she has relaxed, knowing she has very little to lose at this stage. Back to you Sloane …

Second set: *Keys 4-6, 3-5 Stephens

What athleticism from Stephens on the first point as she sprints forward to Keys’s return, which had flown off the net tape, and conjures up the winner. 15-0. 15-all, as Keys hits out in anger. Which is soon 30-all. A forehand into the net from Stephens and Keys carves out a break point! Stephens’s serve looked long but there’s no call, the pair continue, Keys chips, Stephens chops into the net. Stephens has been broken serving for the match! Could this contest be about to explode into life? The crowd are still rather subdued but there’s an “Allez” or two from the spectators, who want Keys to get back into this.

Second set: Keys 4-6, 2-5 Stephens*

When Keys pulls it off, she looks formidable. But it’s just too hit and miss. I wonder what Lindsay Davenport, the three-times grand slam winner who is in her second stint coaching Keys, is making of this. Keys will show a glimpse of being able to get back into this – but a gift for Stephens all too often follows. Stephens has a break point at her advantage which, at this stage, is virtually a match point. And here’s a second. Keys’s shot is close – no one quite seems to know whether it’s in or out – but the umpire eventually confirms Keys’s worst fears. Keys is broken and Stephens will serve for a place in her first French Open final!

Second set: *Keys 4-6, 2-4 Stephens

Keys is refusing to roll over despite trailing by the break but does Keys have the, um, keys to turn this around? Sorry, it’s been a long day what with the men’s quarter-finals. Plus I’m feeling a bit tired and delirious from all the hayfever medication. Stephens sticks to the serving script by sprinting to 30-0. Which two shots later is 40-0. A longer exchange plays out, Keys mixes things up by moving into the net and shows great anticipation to put away the volley. 40-15. But another forehand thwack into the net and that’s the game.

Second set: Keys 4-6, 2-3 Stephens*

Mesdames et messieurs, there’s not much to see here. Stephens holds with ease, as does Keys.

Second set: Keys 4-6, 1-2 Stephens*

Stephens suffered a surprising slump after her breakthrough US Open triumph last September, bizarrely failing to win a match until February in Acapulco. She suddenly turned it back on at the Miami Open, the so-called fifth slam, by beating Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko in consecutive matches to win the title and move into the world’s top 10 for the first time. She’s something of a confidence player. Though the 25-year-old’s had her fair share of injury setbacks over the years too. Stephens holds to 15, as does Keys, so it’s Stephens who still has the break.

Sloane Stephens
Guess who. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images


Second set: Keys 4-6, 0-1 Stephens*

That’s the first set Keys has conceded during the tournament, by the way. Stephens, sliding and gliding on the clay, is keen to make an early statement in this second set and shows wonderful improvisation with a crafty lob. Keys, pedalling back, reaches it but can’t get it back into play. 30-all on the Keys serve. Deuce. Advantage Keys, who then produces her first double fault of the match. Deuce. Advantage Stephens, break point. Stephens does her best to absorb Keys’s artillery but she eventually chops long. Deuce. Advantage Stephens, a second break point. And unforced error No 28 from Keys hands it to Stephens, who now is very much in charge of this semi-final.


Stephens wins the first set 6-4!

Keys is up to 20 unforced errors and 13 winners. Stephens’s stats are seven unforced errors to five winners. And that pretty sums the match up so far. Keys hasn’t found the right balance. Not that that’s easy when you’re playing someone who’s chasing down everything. Stephens could give Halep a run for her money in that respect. The good news for Keys is that her serve is still swinging nicely. She holds, forcing Stephens to serve out the first set. 15-0, 30-0, 40-0. Another unforced error from Keys and Stephens is halfway towards the French Open final!

Stephens wins the first set 6-4.
Stephens wins the first set 6-4. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA


First set: *Keys 3-5 Stephens

At 15-all, a brutal backhand strike from Keys down the line. 15-30. They’re hitting moon balls at each other on the next point, but Keys clearly prefers to play with power. She gets a little over-anxious and it’s 30-all. A netted forehand from Keys and Stephens has game point. And Keys has the sound of the ball hitting the net ringing round her ears again. Stephens, having started to look a little edgy despite leading by a break, holds.

First set: Keys 3-4 Stephens*

Keys holds to stay in touch. Despite being a break down, she’ll be much happier with how she’s playing here compared to last year’s US Open final.

First set: *Keys 2-4 Stephens

An overrule on the opening point. The umpire once again is out on court inspecting the clay – she’d be sitting more comfortably in her chair if the tournament used Hawk-Eye – and her overrule stands. Stephens is tested for the first time on serve, as Keys navigates her way to break point at 30-40. Stephens snuffs out the danger. Deuce. Advantage Keys, a second break point. Keys has the chance to pull the trigger with her return on a second serve – and nets. She shrieks in frustration. Deuce. Advantage Stephens. Jeu Stephens, as Keys batters well beyond the baseline. Keys’s errors are outnumbering the winners at the moment.

Keys serves.
Keys serves. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images


First set: Keys 2-3 Stephens*

Keys does have her strong serve to rely on though. Ace No 3 and No 4 get her to 40-30, and she slams down the smash for the game.

First set: *Keys 1-3 Stephens

Currently being discussed on the Eurosport commentary: how difficult it is for the crowd to pick which player to get behind here. Which American do they go for? Stephens and Keys play a similar game too, with their powerful groundstrokes, although Stephens’s movement is better and, if she moves Keys around, she knows errors may follow. That approach gets Stephens to 40-15 on serve, and she consolidates the break as Keys’s error count hits seven.

Stephens returns.
Stephens returns. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters


First set: Keys 1-2 Stephens*

Anything Keys can do – Stephens holds to 15 as well. Keys then cranks up the power on serve, charging to 40-0, before Stephens surges back to deuce. After two comfortable holds, this contest is getting going. Stephens soaks up a powerful serve and brings up the first break point of this semi-final. A sizzling Stephens forehand catches the outside of the line – the umpire is out of her chair to confirm the call – and it’s Stephens with the early strike.

First set: Keys 1-0 Stephens*

Keys has one of the best serves in the women’s game behind Williams and she moves smoothly into a 40-15 lead in the opening game before holding. She’ll be pleased with that after the nightmare in New York. There won’t be many too surprises here, they know each other’s game so well, it could come down to who executes best. The pressure is more on Stephens as the US Open champion.

Keys says that US Open final already feels “like 12 years ago”, adding: “I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment. … It feels completely different here. I have actually been told quite often that I’ll never win or do well because I’m too nice of a person. I think that’s a load of crap. I don’t think you have to be mean in order to win matches. I think there’s a difference between being intense and wanting it and fighting and just not being nice, so that’s something that I have always stayed true to.”

As for Stephens, she says: “I think for both of us, that was the biggest moment of both of our careers, playing in the finals of the US Open. I think a lot has happened since then. We are both playing well, in the semis of a grand slam. It’s great for American tennis. To have two Americans in the semi-finals of the French Open, is pretty incredible. That means one American will be in the final of a French Open, which is another amazing thing. All in all, I don’t think anyone can complain.”

Well, except perhaps the loser.

Right, next up it’s Madison Keys v Sloane Stephens, and they’re already out on court warming up. For all the talk of Serena Williams in the first week, Keys and Stephens are the last Americans in Paris. And they’re still good friends despite Stephens taking lumps out of Keys in the 2017 US Open final, when Stephens won 6-3, 6-0 for her first grand slam title. It’s the first time two American women have met in the last four at Roland Garros since Williams beat Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

A top performance that was from Halep, arguably one of the finest of her career. Her defence was terrific but she attacked so forcefully too. She was hitting the ball as hard as Muguruza out there. And for all the questions about the mental side of her game, she was nerveless in that second-set denouement.


Here’s Halep:

I’m really, really happy that I won this match. It was really important for my mind to know I could win against a great opponent. It’s a pleasure to play here. I’m happy to play the final again at my favourite grand slam. I’ll try my best and hopefully do better than last year.


Halep beats Muguruza 6-1, 6-4 to reach the final!

After the neverending ninth game, the end is in sight. Halep is charging through the points and is potentially two away at 0-30. She’s perhaps only one point away at 0-40. Triple match point. Muguruza batters a backhand long and Halep is into the final! The two-times runner-up has given herself another shot at winning the title! Victory means she retains the world No 1 ranking too.

Halep beats Muguruza 6-1, 6-4.
Halep beats Muguruza 6-1, 6-4. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters


Second set: Halep 6-1, 5-4 Muguruza*

… A one-two punch from Muguruza in front of the watching Mike Tyson but still Halep gets it back – before Muguruza puts away the smash! Advantage Muguruza, a break point that would leave the Spaniard serving to level the match. The pair trade blows down the middle, neither is willing to budge, but eventually Muguruza surrenders! Deuce No 5. Followed by break point No 2. Halep – on the run – dispatches Muguruza’s return for the winner! Deuce No 6. Break point No 3. Muguruza completely misses a low ball that doesn’t bounce! And Halep then holds! Utterly engrossing. Muguruza must hold serve to stay in the match.

Second set: *Halep 6-1, 4-4 Muguruza

At 40-15, Halep performs the splits, a pirouette and then is flying through the air in an attempt to get the ball back – I think even her compatriot Nadia Comaneci would give her a perfect 10 for artistic effort – but Muguruza wins the point. And the next. From 40-15 it’s deuce. A break for Muguruza here would leave her serving for the set. Halep gets to advantage but then is hauled back to deuce. Some top-class defence and it’s Halep’s advantage again. But there’s her third double fault. Deuce. Could this be a pivotal moment in the set? Advantage Halep. Deuce. The game’s been going for eight minutes …

Second set: *Halep 6-1, 4-4 Muguruza

At 15-all, Muguruza makes a mess of the short ball. 15-30. 15-40, when Halep just finds the sideline with a whipped forehand winner. Two break-back points. Perhaps this match won’t go to a decider after all. An errant backhand from Muguruza and there’s the break! They’re back on serve. Muguruza will be kicking herself after all the work she put in to forge ahead in this second set.


Fancy some Nadal v Schwartzman highlights? Sure you do.

Second set: Halep 6-1, 3-4 Muguruza*

As the intensity increases, so does the noise that both players are making. @PseudoFed doesn’t seem too impressed. Halep stays in touch with the hold.

Second set: *Halep 6-1, 2-4 Muguruza

Halep is huffing and puffing after her effort whistles wide. 15-0. 30-0. 30-15, after a deft touch from Halep at the net. A baseline duel follows, Halep slightly mistimes her forehand and is standing there almost willing it to go in, but it plops wide. 40-15. Game Muguruza.

Second set: Halep 6-1, 2-3 Muguruza*

At 5ft 6in, Halep is giving away a full six inches to Muguruza, but she’s attempting to stand tall here in the face of the current Wimbledon champion’s fightback. She holds to 30 but still finds herself a break down.

Muguruza, fighting back in the second set.
Muguruza, fighting back in the second set. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images


Second set: *Halep 6-1, 1-3 Muguruza

Halep looks to have shaken off that negativity and, for the first time in this match, this really feels like a contest. Muguruza gets to 40-15 on serve but a second backhand winner of the day for Halep leaves Muguruza’s feet stuck in the clay. The Spaniard didn’t even move for that. Muguruza goes long and it’s deuce. Then Halep’s advantage. The pair go down the middle, Halep then moves Muguruza wide, but the Romanian goes on to net. Deuce. Halep is furious with herself but she gets another chance to break after Muguruza fires into the tramlines. Halep loops long! Egalité deux. And from there Muguruza holds to consolidate the break, ending with a stinging serve out wide.

Second set: Halep 6-1, 1-2 Muguruza*

Muguruza rallies and holds to 15. Halep hurries to 15-0 on her serve, before Muguruza moves to 15-all and then does her best to get rid of a set of frustration with three big, clean hits in the next point. Even Halep’s defence eventually breaks down. 15-30. 15-40, two break points. This makes things a bit more interesting. Muguruza breaks and Halep is using her racket to clap sarcastically at herself. She could really do without engaging in a mental battle with herself here.


Second set: Halep 6-1, 1-0 Muguruza*

The court has been swept – as it always is between sets at Roland Garros – so it’s something of a fresh start for Muguruza. But it’s the same old story on the first point. And the second. Halep leads 30-0 on serve and Muguruza is cutting a disconsolate figure between points. She can’t figure out a way to penetrate Halep’s defence. Every. Single. Ball. Is coming back. So much for David Ferrrrrreer having the nickname of the Wall. I think he should hand it over to Halep. There again she’s almost playing like the Novak Djokovic of old. Call her Novak Halep. 40-0. 40-15. Game.


Halep wins the first set 6-1!

There is almost certainly too much for Muguruza to do in this set but at least it’ll give her something to build on at the start of the second. 15-all turns into 30-all. Halep is left slapping her thigh after a backhand skids wide. 40-30. Halep’s return clips the net and drops in, bamboozling Muguruza, whose effort hits the net post and flies back at her. Deuce. Advantage Halep, a first set point. And it’s not only the Romanians in the crowd who seem to be cheering. She’d be a popular champion given her heartbreak in previous years. Deuce. Advantage Halep, a second set point. And Halep rounds off a terrific set of tennis with a forehand winner!

Halep wins the first set 6-1.
Halep wins the first set 6-1. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters


First set: Halep 5-1 Muguruza*

I must admit I didn’t see this coming. Given the way Muguruza dominated Sharapova yesterday, I thought she’d have too much power for Halep. And usually once Muguruza gets going at a grand slam, she’s virtually unbeatable in the later stages. Muguruza gives Halep something to think about at 30-all, and Halep is left to ponder a break point after the next exchange. 30-40. Jeu Muguruza. It’s taken 30 minutes but Muguruza is on the board.

First set: *Halep 5-0 Muguruza

As they’ve just said on the Eurosport commentary, when Halep is playing like this, it’s not hard to see why she’s the world No 1. But then the doubts can creep in, last year’s French Open final being a case in point, when she led Jelena Ostapenko, the unseeded first-time grand slam finalist, by a set and 3-0 before blinking near the finish line. Can she keep those nerves in check today? She’s not showing any sign of weakness in this first set, bringing up a break point at 30-40. A good second serve from Muguruza and it’s deuce. But Muguruza just can’t hit through Halep, whose wall-like play gives her another break point. And it’s 5-0 in 25 minutes. Halep will serve for a first-set bagel.


First set: Halep 4-0 Muguruza*

Halep’s game is based around great movement and defence, but she’s also hitting so deep at the moment, giving Muguruza no time to breathe on the baseline. Which is what Muguruza did to Sharapova yesterday. The Spaniard’s getting a dose of her own medicine. Halep holds to 30 and Muguruza is yet to make her mark on the scoreboard.

First set: *Halep 3-0 Muguruza

Muguruza sent a warning shot to rest of the draw yesterday with her shellacking of Sharapova but she’s not yet firing today. At 15-all, the Spaniard has two chances to win the point with a drive volley but Halep shows some great defence to get the ball back, and then Muguruza misses with the easiest volley of the lot. 15-30. 30-all. 30-40, a point for the double break for Halep. Muguruza has made several errors on the forehand side so far, and there’s another! Halep has the insurance of the double break.

Halep returns.
Halep returns. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images


First set: Halep 2-0 Muguruza*

However having broken, Halep is in danger of being broken herself. It’s 0-30. Make that 15-30. But Halep can’t recover any more lost ground. It’s 15-40, double break point. The rallies are already fairly intense, this could turn into a scorcher. Halep wins both break points to scramble to deuce. But it’s a case of two steps forward, one step back for the Romanian as Muguruza brings up a third break point. Halep gets back to deuce once more before getting to game point for the first time. Jeu Halep. A gutsy hold. The Romanian contingent in the crowd break into a chant of: “SIMONA, SIMONA, SIMONA.”


First set: *Halep 1-0 Muguruza

Halep, waiting to receive, is springing up and down behind the baseline like Zebedee. Perhaps it puts Muguruza off, because the Spaniard throws in a couple of unforced errors and it’s 0-30. She finds her range on the third point though, and after an 11-shot rally, Halep goes wide. 15-30. An unreturned serve, 30-all. Muguruza overcooks a backhand. 30-40. An early break point. Already you can see this is a very different match for Muguruza than it was against Sharapova. Halep will run and run, and make Muguruza work hard for the points. Muguruza meekly surrenders the break with a double fault.

Tik! Tok! Tikity! Tok! They’re warming up. Muguruza looks a little nervous. I’m not sure why. She’s lost only 20 games coming into this semi-final.

And they’re out. Muguruza is introduced first, followed by Halep. The latter wins the toss and opts to receive.

Katy here. Thanks John for stepping in. And thanks to Del Potro and Cilic for doing the courteous thing by finishing in time for us to focus on the first of the women’s semi-finals, which is being billed on the Roland Garros Twitter feed as “le Yin et le Yang”. It’s the 2016 champion, Garbiñe Muguruza, against the two-times runner-up and world No 1, Simona Halep, who is desperate to shake that grand slam-sized monkey off her back at her favourite tournament.

Muguruza marmalised Maria Sharapova yesterday for the loss of only three games and, if the Spaniard’s power game is fully firing again today, Halep may not stand much of a chance. But the Romanian has the greater variety and, if she can move Muguruza around and make this a battle of wits, she’s very much in the reckoning.

Halep trails Muguruza 3-1 in the head-to-head but, importantly, her one victory was the only match they’ve played on clay. The world No 1 ranking is also on the line today but, even if Halep beats Muguruza to retain it, I’m sure she’d trade it in for that elusive slam title on Saturday.


Del Potro speaks, in tears, and addresses the crowd

It’s tough to speak now. I am so (sobs)…It has been a long time without a good feeling in my body. I have had three surgeries on my left wrist and I was close to quitting. I don’t have any words. It’s so good for my team and my family. It was very important to have the support of my family and friends and the love of you guys, you make me so happy. I am so proud to be playing tennis. I feel at home here. Merci beaucoup.


So, Del Potro will meet Nadal in the semi-final, his first at Roland Garros in nine years.


Del Petro beats Cilic 7-6, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5!

He cruises to match point and takes it at the first opportunity. Cilic gets angry with himself and barks out some Serbo-Croat invective after another unenforced error for the first point. He looks positively glum after another to make it 30-0 to Del Potro. Then comes another overhit shot to hand over three match points. Then Del Potro booms a serve that Cilic can only balloon back. The job is swiftly finished.

Del Petro beats Cilic 7-6 5-7 6-3 7-5.
Del Petro beats Cilic 7-6 5-7 6-3 7-5. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA


Del Potro breaks Cilic and will serve for the match! Del Potro surges to 0-40 and has three break points. Plenty of Argentine support for him but the first is wasted by a loose forehand. Cilic goes long to make it 6-5 to the Argentinian.


5-5 – no break there. Del Potro begins with two aces before we at last get something of a rally. That ends when Cilic rattles into the net for 40-0. He eventually wins the game with a sliced backhand that drops millimetres over the net cord and spins back. A piece of unexpected delicacy.

Not much fun out there for those who like service to be returned. Cilic serves to love to make it 5-4 in the fourth. Del Potro must hold the next or it’s a fifth set.

Some massive hitting here. Del Potro blasts his way to 4-4 off his serve. Cilic sent scrabbling on the one occasion he got near a Del Potro serve.

Cilic booms through his service game to take it to 4-3. He does though miss a gaping winner when smashing the ball off the frame. An ace dulls the embarrassment.

Del Potro holds. Just. It’s 3-3 in the fourth. Cilic is going for the big shots, risking it all but Del Potro, at 30-30 produces a thudding ace. But he then goes long with a backhand to go to deuce. Then Cilic is loose with his own backhand to hand Del Potro an advantage he seizes on.


Here’s Kevin Mitchell’s report from Roland Garros on Nadal.

I’m off for a quick lunch break before the women’s semi-finals. John Brewin will guide you through the fourth set of Del Potro v Cilic.

Tomorrow will be Nadal’s 11th French Open semi-final. He’s won the other 10. Having shown some vulnerability yesterday, can he be denied another Roland Garros crown? I’d fancy Del Potro to trouble Nadal more than Cilic – and at the moment it’s Del Potro who’s on course to meet Nadal. But the only man remaining in draw to have defeated Nadal on clay is Dominic Thiem – including in the Madrid quarter-finals recently. That was best of three. Does the Austrian have physical and mental stamina to get the better of Nadal over five sets in what would be his first grand slam final? Of course Thiem must first get past Marco Cecchinato in the semi-finals. Cecchinato should be comfortably beaten but never say never after the world No 72’s performance against Novak Djokovic.


So that was a match of two Rafas. After a subdued performance before yesterday’s rain, he was transformed into the player who has won 10 titles at Roland Garros. He can thank the rain gods. There again he is the God in this realm. He probably made it rain yesterday.


Del Potro wins the third set 6-3!

Nadal’s more likely opponent is Del Potro, who’s taken a two sets to one lead over Cilic on Lenglen. Relatively straightforward the third set was too, after the way the first and second sets went. They’ve been going at each other for three hours now.

Juan Martin Del Potro stretches for a return.
Juan Martin Del Potro stretches for a return. Photograph: Michel Euler/AP


Nadal speaks:

Diego’s a good friend, a really good player. It wasn’t easy. I wish him all the best for the future. I played at a better level after the rain, I’m happy to reach another semi-final. It’s a great emotion to play here. I’ve got to play again tomorrow, it’ll be difficult whoever I play.

Nadal beats Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2!

Nadal goes wide and here’s a third break point. There’s another chant of “DIEGO, DIEGO, DIEGO” around the stadium, which probably displeases Nadal. He’s used to being the King in these parts, after all. And he shows why as he biffs a backhand winner down the line. Deuce. His advantage, another match point. And this time he’s jumping and fist pumping as he finally finishes Schwartzman off! The pair do their best little and large impression as they embrace at the net.

Rafael Nadal embraces Diego Schwartzman as he celebrates after his victory over the Argentine.
Rafael Nadal embraces Diego Schwartzman as he celebrates after his victory over the Argentine. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images


Fourth set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-2 Schwartzman

So Nadal has stepped up to the plate to serve for a place in yet another French Open semi-final. 15-0. 30-0. Schwartzman reduces his arrears with an aggressive cross-court backhand, which Nadal blazes into the tramlines. 30-15. 40-15. Two match points. Nadal taps the clay off his shoes, fiddles with his shorts, ears and face for good measure before serving, but the rally ends with a Nadal error! As does the next! Mon dieu. Deuce. Advantage Schwartzman! From two match points to a break point. The pair engage in some tête-à-tête at the net and Nadal survives. Deuce. Advantage Schwartzman! Deuce, as a relentless Nadal pounds, pounds, pounds away with his forehand …

A remarkable stat from Cilic v Del Potro:

Fourth set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-2 Schwartzman

… and here’s a third deuce. A chant of “DIEGO, DIEGO, DIEGO” rings round Chatrier. And he’s got his arms in the air, milking the applause, after a ferocious forehand on the run. Schwartzman’s advantage. A fourth deuce. It does feel like Schwartzman is delaying the inevitable, but who can blame him for making the most of his moment. He wins the next two points and escapes with the hold.

Fourth set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-1 Schwartzman*

So Schwartzman is serving to stay in this quarter-final. At 30-15, Nadal, like a spider weaving his web, spins a vicious forehand winner down the line. Surely it won’t be long before Schwartzman is his prey. 30-all. Schwartzman appears all caught up at 30-40 – match point – but he wriggles free. Deuce. Schwartzman’s advantage. A second deuce. Schwartzman’s advantage. The effort that the Argentinian is having to put in to win these points …


Fourth set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-1 Schwartzman*

Nadal, having not done a very good job of being Nadal yesterday, grunts and grinds his way to a 30-15 lead after an attritional rally. 21 shots, to be precise. His forehand, which failed to launch properly in the damp conditions yesterday, is flying off the clay like a rocket. 40-15. Having looked so unsettled and unsure of himself for much of yesterday, he’s playing with such power and depth. But there’s too much depth at 40-15, and his effort just misses. 40-30. Game, when the pugilist pins Schwartzman deep to the right before pinging a perfect drop-shot to the left.


Fourth set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-1 Schwartzman

Schwartzman, having come so close in the previous game to dragging himself back to level terms in the fourth set, is now facing up to the reality that his tournament may soon be over. Nadal breaks.

They’ll probably still be going in the gloam this evening, long after the women’s semi-finals have finished.


Fourth set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-1 Schwartzman*

Back on Chatrier, Nadal has saved a break point en route to a 3-1 lead.

Cilic wins the second set 7-5!

Cilic is serving at 30-all. Nadal is serving at 30-all. Where to look? Lenglen, because Cilic now has set point. Del Potro’s effort goes beyond the baseline and Cilic is back on level terms!

Marin Cilic serves to Juan Martin del Potro.
Marin Cilic serves to Juan Martin del Potro. Photograph: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images


Second set: *Cilic 6-7, 6-5 Del Potro

The breaks of serve in this match are a bit like London buses. You wait around two hours for one and then three come along at once. Cilic breaks for 6-5 and is serving to level at one set all …

Fourth set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-1 Schwartzman

In other news I think I put the curse on Schwartzman by saying he wouldn’t concede this easily. He’s chattering and chuntering away to his box after being broken to love.

Second set: Cilic 6-7, 5-5 Del Potro*

Beware an angry Del Potro. He breaks straight back.

Fourth set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-1 Schwartzman*

Schwartzman showed in the final game of the third set that he’s starting to play better, and he’s on the board first in the fourth set with a comfortable hold. He has a great chance to go 15-30 up on Nadal’s serve in the next game but rams into the net. So it’s 30-15 Nadal. Schwartzman dusts himself down and recovers to 30-all. Nadal edges ahead once more for 40-30, before a snarling finish at the net. Nadal holds but Schwartzman definitely hasn’t given up in this match.

Second set: Cilic 6-7, 4-4 Del Potro*

There’s still very little to pick between Del Potro and Cilic on Lenglen. Del Potro, having edged the first set on a tie-break, is serving at 4-4 and deuce.

Nadal wins the third set 6-2!

… before Schwartzman’s shot strays wide. It’s set point No 2 for Nadal. He misses his first serve, lands his second, and Schwartzman strikes long! Rafa appears to be rolling into another French Open semi-final but remember, Schwartzman did come from two sets down against someone almost twice his size in the previous round.

… and a delightful touch from Schwartzman gives him another break point! But some stunning defence from Nadal brings it back to deuce! Schwartzman looked like he’d won the point about 10 times before Nadal prevailed. A bad call on the next point and they’re going to have to replay it. Schwartzman wins the second take, so it’s his break point. This time they engage in a game of cat and mouse, dragging each other here, there and everywhere, before Nadal’s winning volley. Deuce. Advantage Schwartzman, a fourth break point. But by know you know the drill. Nadal saves it …


Third set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 5-2 Schwartzman

Schwartzman takes the first point before Nadal wallops a forehand winner down the line. 15-all. Schwartzman jumps into the slightly short ball, launching himself in the air before firing a rocket of a backhand winner. 15-30. This makes things a bit more interesting. But Schwartzman is chastising himself after going long on the next point. 30-all. The pair go down the middle before Nadal drags Schwartzman wide, and then rounds things off with the drive volley. Set point Nadal at 40-30. A long rally plays out, and Nadal’s looping forehand goes just wide! Deuce. Another error and it’s break point! Schwartzman decides to go for another of his mid-air efforts but this one doesn’t come off. As you were, then. Deuce …

Diego Schwartzman returns the ball to Rafael Nadal.
Diego Schwartzman returns the ball to Rafael Nadal. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images


Third set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 5-2 Schwartzman

I wonder how Schwartzman slept last night, knowing he was leading Nadal at Roland Garros by a set to love. Perhaps not too comfortably, because yesterday’s bustling ball of energy has not reappeared today. There again, Nadal hasn’t let it. Nadal is sensing blood at 15-30, and appears like he’s going to pounce at 30-all, but then nets! 40-30. Nadal fails to clear the net again and that’s the game. The world No 1 let Schwartzman out of his grasp there but will still come out after the changeover and serve for the set.

Third set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 5-1 Schwartzman*

A rare blot in Nadal’s serving book as the Spaniard concedes the first point. So what does he do? He wins the next four points, of course, finishing things off with an unreturned serve down the T. Schwartzman must now hold serve if this set’s to go on for any longer …


Third set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 4-1 Schwartzman

At 30-all on Schwartzman’s serve, Nadal clubs a cross-court winner to bring up break point for the double break. But he’s not all aggression, you know. This time he changes up the pace with a cute drop-shot. Schwartzman, even with his speed, isn’t getting to that. Nadal breaks again and is running away with this third set.

Rafael Nadal fires a return to Diego Schwartzman.
Rafael Nadal fires a return to Diego Schwartzman. Photograph: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images


Third set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 3-1 Schwartzman*

The way Nadal has performed so far today, and the way he played after the rain break yesterday, raises the question as to why he was so passive for the first set and a half of this match. Sure, the sunnier conditions today suit him better, but mentally he’s so much more switched on now. He races to 40-0. And then thwacks down a first serve which Schwartzman hits so high into the skies it probably landed in the River Seine.


Third set: *Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 2-1 Schwartzman

Schwartzman slides 0-30 down on serve. He’s won only one point since the resumption. Make that two, as he improvises with a lovely lob that Nadal can’t reach. 15-30. And then three, it’s 30-all. There’s a loud “VAMOS! VAMOS!!” after the next point but it’s not Nadal with his trademark cry but instead Schwartzman, because he’s got himself a game point. And from there the Argentinian holds.

Third set: Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 2-0 Schwartzman*

This is ominous for Schwartzman, who is broken to 15 at the start of the third set. Nadal then charges bull-like through his own service game to love. He’s clearly up for this. In contrast to your game-by-gamer, who’s dosed up on a cocktail of hay fever medication and is feeling rather drowsy.


Nadal wins the second set 6-3!

Meanwhile on Chatrier Nadal, having resumed at 5-3, 30-15, has two set points of his own at 40-15. Schwartzman slams his return into the net! Nadal is striding purposefully back to his chair, safe in the knowledge that normal service has been resumed.

Del Potro wins the first set 7-6!

There’s no time for Cilic and Del Potro to find their feet on Lenglen. They resume at 5-5 in the tie-break, and Del Potro takes the opening point of the day, on his serve, to bring up the first set point of the contest at 6-5. It’s on Cilic’s serve. The pair go backhand to backhand, backhand to backhand, backhand to backhand to backhand, before Cilic decides to run round his. He shouldn’t have changed tack. Cilic clunks his forehand into the net and Del Potro takes the first set!

Juan Martin Del Potro gets his nose ahead in his quarter-final against Marin Cilic.
Juan Martin Del Potro gets his nose ahead in his quarter-final against Marin Cilic. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA


Here they come, both weaving and winding their way through the corridors under the stadium. Nadal is towering over the diminutive Schwartzman. Which makes what Schwartzman did yesterday all the more remarkable. Inch for inch, he’s been the best player by some distance.

Nadal jumps up and down before the stadium announcer introduces him. Luckily there’s no repeat of this.


Del Potro and Cilic have made their entrance on an almost-empty Suzanne Lenglen and are warming up. No sign yet of Nadal and Schwartzman on Philippe Chatrier.

Newsflash: the sun is out in Paris! Nadal will be happy about that. It’ll help those ferociously spun forehands kick up off the clay. Given Schwartzman is only 5ft 7in, they’ll probably take the Argentinian’s head off.

Rafa looks to be in the mood for some tennis.


Hello and welcome to women’s semi-finals day at the French Open, where the men have muscled their way in on the action. Before Simona Halep v Garbiñe Muguruza and Madison Keys v Sloane Stephens, there’s the not-so-small matter of Rafael Nadal’s quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman, plus Marin Cilic v Juan Martín del Potro.

Nadal, having conceded his first set at Roland Garros since 1954 sorry 2015, was serving for the second set at 5-3, 30-15 when rain put a dampener on proceedings yesterday. It was the second interruption of the match; Schwartzman, a 5ft 7in bundle of energy and snappy ground strokes, was a break up in the second set when the skies first opened. That allowed Nadal to regroup and, having had another chance last night to talk tactics with his team, the 10-times champion may well be in the mood to restore order in his Philippe Chatrier fiefdom today. This French revolution is likely to be quashed.

Cilic and Del Potro also resume at a crunch moment. In a match that had several tie-breaks written all over it, the pair were duking it out in a … tie-break, with the score locked at 5-5 when they were forced off court.

The players renew their rivalries: at 11am BST/midday in Paris.

In the meantime:

Here’s Kevin Mitchell’s take on the matches so far:

And John McEnroe’s thoughts on whether Andy Murray is likely to return in time for Wimbledon:


Thursday’s order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier

Play starts at 12pm/11am BST

Rafael NADAL (ESP) [1] vs Diego SCHWARTZMAN (ARG) [11] To be completed: Schwartman leads 6-4 3-5

Not before 3pm/2pm BST
Simona HALEP (ROU) [1] vs Garbiñe MUGURUZA (ESP)[3]

Madison KEYS (USA)[13] vs Sloane STEPHENS (USA)[10]

Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Play starts at 12pm/11am BST

Marin CILIC (CRO) [3] vs Juan Martin DEL POTRO (ARG) [5] To be completed: Match tied 6-6 (5-5)

Mixed doubles final
Gabriela DABROWSKI (CAN) & Mate PAVIC (CRO) [1] vs Latisha CHAN (TPE) & Ivan DODIG (CRO) [2]

Nikola MEKTIC (CRO) & Alexander PEYA (AUT) [8] vs Pierre-Hugues HERBERT (FRA) & Nicolas MAHUT (FRA) [6]

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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French Open: Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens reach final – as it happened | NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).

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