‘King of Clay’ reaches semis

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    PARIS. — Claycourt master Rafa Nadal passed his first real test of this year’s French Open with a 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 victory against Italian rising star Jannik Sinner as his quest for a record-breaking 13th title gathered momentum on Tuesday.

    The Spaniard, also looking to match Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, was stretched by the 19-year-old Sinner as he set up a clash with Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who beat him in the Italian Open quarterfinals last month.

    The 34-year-old Nadal’s 97 previous victories at Roland Garros made the difference in key moments, with the Spaniard rallying from a break down in the first two sets.

    Sinner, the first French Open debutant to reach the last eight since Nadal in 2005, confirmed his immense potential but lacked just a bit of composure when it mattered.

    “Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power, great shots. For two sets it was tough, especially in the second set I was lucky to be back,” said Nadal after a match played in cold conditions that ended at 0126 local time, the latest finish at a French Open.

    “The conditions were a little bit difficult; he was hitting every ball very hard and with this cold, my speed was not there. It was hard for me to put him out of position.

    “Now I have two, well almost one and a half days off to rest and practice.”