Claycourt master Rafa Nadal passed his first real test of this year’s French Open with a 7-6(4) 6-4 6-1 victory against Italian rising star Jannik Sinner as his quest for a record-breaking 13th title gathered momentum on Tuesday.
The Spaniard, also looking to match Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, was stretched by the 19-year-old Sinner as he set up a clash with Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who beat him in the Italian Open quarter-finals last month.
The 34-year-old Nadal’s 97 previous victories at Roland Garros made the difference in key moments with the Spaniard rallying from a break down in the first two sets.
Sinner, the first French Open debutant to reach the last eight since Nadal in 2005, confirmed his immense potential but lacked just a bit of composure when it mattered.
“Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power, great shots. For two sets it was tough, especially in the second set I was lucky to be back,” said Nadal after a match played in cold conditions that ended at 0126 local time, the latest finish at a French Open.
“The conditions were a little bit difficult, he was hitting every ball very hard and with this cold, my speed is not there. It was hard for me to put him out of position.
“Now I have two, well almost one and a half days off to rest and practice.”