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Friday 22 June 2018

Sharapova crushed in France as rain delay saves Nadal

On form: Garbine Muguruza
On form: Garbine Muguruza

Rafael Nadal's grip on the French Open title was in danger of being loosened by the unlikely figure of Diego Schwartzman yesterday.

The man who has lost just twice in 85 matches at Roland Garros was staring down the barrel of a shock defeat when the rain saved him.

At one point Nadal, the reigning champion and 10 times winner, found himself a set and a break down to 5ft 7in Argentinian Schwartzman.

It was the first set Nadal had lost in his last 38 consecutive sets, stretching over three French Open campaigns - meaning Bjorn Borg's record of 41 straight sets won remained intact.

However, when the players came back on after a delay of almost an hour Nadal immediately broke back to level the second set.

Pressure: Rafael Nadal
Pressure: Rafael Nadal

A hold and a break later he was serving to level the match, but at 5-3 and 30-15 the heavens opened again and they were forced off once more, this time for good - with the score at 6-4 3-5.

Maria Sharapova's return to the French Open came to an abrupt halt at the hands of Garbine Muguruza.

The Russian, back on the Paris clay having missed the last two tournaments due to a doping ban, was swept aside 6-2 6-1 by the Spanish third seed.

If Sharapova were to write another autobiography, this tame quarter-final defeat is unlikely to feature too prominently.

Muguruza had raced into a 4-0 first-set lead, punishing the former world number one's second serve.

She broke again at the start of the second set, and although this time Sharapova hit straight back, Muguruza bulldozed her way through the rest of the set to secure her place in the semi-finals.

"I knew it was going to be an intense match, because I hadn't played her for a long time," said Muguruza.

"I wasn't thinking so much about the result, but I just was thinking about not dropping my level, not giving her a single point, and I guess that helped my performance."

Muguruza will face world number one Simona Halep, who got the better of Angelique Kerber over three sets, in the semi-final.

Halep got off to a poor start, with 10 unforced errors in the opening three games handing Kerber a double break.

The Romanian battled back to force a tie-break, only to lose it tamely - to her obvious frustration.

Halep secured an early break in the second and did not relinquish it despite some fierce pressure from two-time major winner Kerber, with one remarkable get at the net even prompting applause from the German.

With memories still fresh in the mind of their epic Australian Open semi-final in January, which Halep edged 9-7 in the third, they went to a decider.

There were no such fireworks this time, though, and as Kerber tired Halep sealed a 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 6-2 victory.

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