Juan Martin del Potro out to end Rafael Nadal’s French Open stranglehold

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Juan Martin del Potro faces the most daunting task in tennis on Friday – taking on Rafael Nadal in a French Open semi-final.

Nadal reached the last four at Roland Garros for the 11th time after finally overpowering tricky Argentinian Diego Schwartzman in four sets.

The Spaniard has won all 10 of his previous semi-finals in Paris, and gone on to lift the trophy each time.

But Del Potro is no stranger to adversity. The 2009 US Open champion was in the depths of despair during an injury ravaged three years and contemplating retirement.

The Argentinian fifth seed was clearly emotional after a four-set win over Marin Cilic saw him reach the last four in Paris for the first time since 2009.

“Everybody knows that I was close to quitting two years ago, but then I never give up,” he said.

“I didn’t expect to be in the top five again, to reach semi-finals at the big tournaments after all my injuries.

“But now it’s time to talk about my present in a good way. I think all the tougher moments of my life are completely in the past, and I’m enjoying this present.”

Nadal knows he will need to at least match Thursday’s performance against Schwartzman, rather than Wednesday’s when he fell a set and a break down to the 11th seed before the rain rescued him.

“Del Potro has achieved great victories this year, he’s a good server with an aggressive game from the baseline,” said Nadal.

“I have to play aggressively. If I play defensively and I don’t take intensity, I will be lost.”

Simona Halep reached her third French Open final, and ensured she held on to the world number one spot, with victory over Garbine Muguruza.

The Romanian is still trying to win her maiden grand slam title, having suffered a shock defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in last year’s final.

She faces Sloane Stephens, who beat fellow American Madison Keys 6-4 6-4.

“I have more experience now,” said Halep. “I feel calm. I feel that I have to enjoy the victory.

“Now I will stay chilled. I will relax. And then we will see what is going to happen Saturday, but for sure I will fight for every ball.”

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