Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 13 of the 2021 French Open.

Even in defeat, all hail Diego Schwartzman.

For the singles men’s quarterfinals, the Argentine had the unenviable task of taking on Rafael Nadal in his own kingdom. The final score might have said 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 and 6-0 in favour of the Spaniard, but it undersells the effort and performance of Schwartzman. Because he just about pushed Nadal to the very brink in the pivotal fourth set. And once he had lost this, it was pretty much all over for him.

Tennis, we keep saying in this space, is a cruel and difficult mistress. It’s a sport that constantly demands more and more excellence out of you; and even in the best of days, your excellence might still not be enough. You might be playing on your favourite surface, the one best suited to enhance your strengths and hide your weaknesses, and still find yourself on the losing side. And suddenly, you’re down to 11-1 against Nadal.

Day 13 preview

We’re closing our look at the four singles semifinals with our predictions at how the two on the men’s side will shake out. As always, you’ll find the full day 13 schedule here.

Court Philippe-Chatrier: Alexander Zverev [6] vs Stefanos Tsitsipas [5] (First match of the day)

For such a weird, odd and quirky tournament, the main draw on the ATP has unfolded mostly according to plan. Of course, let’s not mention any of this to Dominic Thiem but, like, other than the Austrian’s early exit, it’s been mostly smooth sailing. Well, that’s not entirely true: right from the start, Alexander Zverev very nearly crashed out of the Open, needing a two-set comeback against qualifier Oscar Otte. Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, has played a motley crue of veterans or in-form players, but none have worried him much. In his head-to-head battle against Zverev, Tsitsipas leads 5-2. Let’s give him another one: the Greek grabs the win in four sets.

Court Philippe-Chatrier: Rafael Nadal [3] vs Novak Djokovic [1] (Not before 5:30pm local time)

This was always the dream semifinal matchup, ever since we saw the release of this year’s main draw that had Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the same half. The stakes really couldn’t be higher. The Spaniard is hoping to keep his romp toward a 21st career major title alive, and beating Djokovic here would guarantee that as well as bring their career head-to-head level at 29 wins apiece. For Djokovic, a win would make him responsible for two thirds of Nadal’s career losses at the French Open, give him a bit of leeway in his head-to-head record as well as bring him possibly one title closer to Nadal and Roger Federer if he can finish the job in the final. But he won’t need to worry about this: the Spaniard holds a 19-7 edge against Djokovic on clay and that has to mean something. Nadal gets the win in four sets.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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