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Roland Garros 2018

5 things we learned at Roland Garros Day 12 - supernatural Nadal, goodwill from Guga

Rafael Nadal and Diego Schwartzman after their semi-final match at Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal and Diego Schwartzman after their semi-final match at Roland Garros Pierre René-Worms

Can Nadal control the weather? Why did Muguruza go into meltdown? Was it OK for Del Potro to cry? And why is Guga good at goodwill? So many questions on day 12 of the French Open at Roland Garros.

  • Faustian deals are afoot

He was playing it down. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? But we’re onto that Rafael Nadal. How can it be that when you are struggling to find your length and are being utterly slapped around it suddenly starts raining? And then, the next day, it is bright blazing sunshine – the very conditions that suit your game entirely? That was the case in the quarter-final between Nadal and the 11th seed Diego Schwartzman. The Argentine took the first set and was a break up in the second before the rain disrupted the flow. “Is not possible that everybody helps. Everything helps, not possible,” smiled Nadal on day 12 after his 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory. The review thinks he was smiling a bit too knowingly. “Of course the stop on Wednesday helps, because it was in a tough moment of my match.” You got that right Rafa. “Diego was playing great and I was playing too defensive. I felt that I was playing a little bit under more stress than usual and he was able to take control of the point too many times. It is fair to say that the rain delay helps me yesterday, but not fair to say the conditions today helped me. The conditions today were the same for both.”
Nadal added: “I played more aggressive. I continued the level of intensity that I played after the first stop. And in my opinion, the match changed, no?” Yes, Rafa, if that’s what you want us to believe.

  • Supernatural Rafa plays the mortal

We, the hypercynical but ever respectful review, aren’t buying it. Nadal came over the ‘I go through stress' thang on day 12. He said he felt the pressure because he is human. “Sometimes you play better and sometimes you are more nervous,” he revealed. “Quarter-finals, important match for me. It These are the kind of matches that can give you the chance to keep going or you lose all the chances against a tough opponent that I had problems with in Australia and Madrid. I knew it was going to be a tough match and I was a little bit more nervous than usual. That's why.” Plausible.

  • Halep on a mission

Top seed and world number one Simone Halep advanced to the women’s singles final with a 6-1 6-4 win over the third seed Garbine Muguruza. It was notable for Muguruza’s service meltdown. She lost her serve six times during the match. This was the part of her game that helped her smack Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-1 in the quarter-final on day 11. Halep was all over the serve in the first set and just as it looked like we might get a third set – with Muguruza leading 4-2 in the second – Halep won four games on the trot to take the match. A third Roland Garros final for the 26-year-old Romanian and maybe it will be third time lucky.

  • Boys don’t cry, big men do

They tend to get away with it when they’re Latin rather than stiff-upper-lip Brits. Juan Martin Del Potro was gushing after his four-set win over the third seed Marin Cilic. Del Potro, 29, was in the semi-finals nine years ago. Roger Federer just about managed to edge past him on that day. Since then Del Potro has had wrist injuries and the man nicknamed the Tower of Tandil - because he is from Tandil in Argentina and he stands 197cm tall - nearly gave up playing tennis. But he’s been back in the top 10 for a while and has a chance to reach the final providing there are no supernatural shenanigans from Senor Nadal.

  • Hail Ambassador Kuerten

Gustavo Kuerten was presented on day 12 as the first ambassador of Roland Garros. Guga – for that is his nickname - will be commissioned to travel around his native Brazil and other parts of the world promoting the event that he won three times, the first as a complete outsider. This is a touch of genius by the French Tennis Federation. It is impossible to be in Kuerten’s presence without feeling that the day is somehow better. And you don’t really know why. Actually you do. When asked to give his opinion about the unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato who will play his first Grand Slam semi-final on day 13 against Dominic Thiem, Kuerten replied: “Nicer hair, him.” And as everyone smiled he talked about the lightness of being a rank outsider. “It’s the same kind of run I had in 1997,” added Kuerten. “The advantage, of course, is you play with nothing to lose. You know, you have a lot in your favour. But the lack of experience and knowledge of being in these last rounds, that's always the risk.” Kuerten added: “In order to go all the way, you need to pass over the champions one after the other. And this will be the challenge he will face. Lucky for me that I did not have Nadal at that time in 1997.” Don’t worry Guga, we think your positive energy would have detonated any otherworldly pacts.

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