PARIS (Reuters) - Being a 10-times champion did not prevent Rafael Nadal from feeling nervous against Argentine Diego Schwartzman in their French Open quarter-final, with the Spaniard admitting that he can at times struggle to cope with his own expectations.
The world number one was a set and a break down on Wednesday before he regrouped and blazed through the last two sets on Thursday in a last-eight showdown which was played over two days due to rain.
“I am a human person,” the Spaniard, who next faces Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, told reporters following his 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory. “Sometimes you play better, sometimes you are more nervous.”
The 11th-seeded Schwartzman appeared to have done his homework well as he dominated the early exchanges to bag the opening set — an achievement in itself as it was the first one Nadal had lost at Roland Garros since 2015.
“The quarter-finals was an important match for me. Was a match that maybe is a key match,” the 16-times Grand Slam champion said.
“Even if it was 6-3 6-4, it was an uncomfortable match for me. I knew it was going to be a tough match and I was a little bit more nervous than usual. That’s why.”
Things improved for Nadal after a first rain interruption on Wednesday. Another downpour halted the match towards the end of the second set and upon resumption on Thursday, the familiar all-conquering and ruthless Nadal was back on show.
Schwartzman had no chance.
“At the beginning yesterday there were no options to open the court, to win points,” Nadal explained.
“And today I moved forward, and I had a better backhand. I was able to open the court on his forehand. Yesterday I was not able to do so. I was not gaining ground.
“And when I was able to change that, I was able to win the game and the match.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar