The game was over. Rafael Nadal had made it to the French Open Final for a record 14th time. But there were no celebrations. Not because this was Nadal winning Tennis on clay. All the eyes, including those of the 21 time grand slam winner were on Alexander Zverev.
After more than three hours of play, the 25-year old was forced to leave the court in tears on a wheelchair after turning his ankle.
The 2020 US Open Singles runner-up was trailing 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 when horror took over Philippe Chatrier court in Stade Roland Garros. The fall was so bad that the broadcasters decided on not running replays of the same.
As shared by one of the spectators present at the venue on his Twitter account, when the replay was played on the giant screen there was a joint look of horror on everyone’s face.
The 15,000 (approximate) in attendance were clearly upset by the in-stadium technical team’s decision. That was how tough it was to even intake those visuals. To be Zverev then, one can’t fathom.
Playing in his fifth singles Grand Slam semi-final, second at Roland Garros, the German international had stretched his majesty of the clay court to his royal best. Making the 36-year old pull up his supernatural bests. Slide for a backhand beyond the markings on the right and then run to the extreme on the left for a forehand point. A 44-shot rally that seemed to go on forever.
Both Nadal and Zverev had come into the game on the back of four set quarter finals, getting the better of Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz respectively. Over three hours of tennis, and the amount of NOS left with the two would’ve been the envy of a franchise called Fast (sometimes Furious). Zverev’s injury, though, had taken everyone’s mind off Tennis. Even Nadal.
From standing beside him as the medics helped him off the court to accompanying him in the room inside as he received help, to returning back with him on the court, Rafa didn’t leave the sight of his competitor during his toughest minutes.
“I have been there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that – I wish him all the best”, he said afterwards.
“I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam. For the moment, he was very unlucky. I’m sure he’ll win not one, but much more than one.”
Number 14 is well and truly in his sight, but even if Nadal does it (again), it is highly unlikely that he gets a standing ovation like the one he and Alexander Zverev received last night.