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Rain saves Nadal as Spaniard lines up semi-final clash with Del Potro

RAFAEL NADAL admitted the rain saved him from a shock French Open defeat.

The 10-time champion needed a downpour last night to rescue him from a deluge of break points, five of which were converted by tricky Argentinian Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal, the undisputed king of clay, had lost his first set at Roland Garros since 2015 and was a break down in the second, but he regrouped during a 53-minute delay.

When the players came back on for half an hour Nadal had rediscovered his serve and found his forehand, until at 5-3 30-15 the heavens opened again.

By today normal service had resumed, the Spaniard reeling off the two points he needed to level the match, and then polishing off two more sets to crush this particular French revolution and secure his place in the semi-finals.

‘Of course the stop yesterday helped because it was in a tough moment of my match,’ said Nadal.

‘He was playing great, and I was playing too defensive. I felt that I was playing a little bit under more stress than usual, and he was able to take control of the point too many times.

‘I played more aggressive. I continued the level of intensity that I played after the first stop. And, in my opinion, the match changed.’

Schwartzman, a nuisance to the end, forced break points as Nadal served for the match but the 32-year-old eventually wrapped up a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory to take another step towards title number 11.

Semi-finalist: Juan Martin Del Potro PICTURE: REX

In the semi-final he will meet Juan Martin del Potro, who came through a predictably attritional battle with third seed Marin Cilic in four sets.

Afterwards a tearful Del Potro said on courtside: ‘It’s tough to speak now.

‘It has been a long time without a good feeling in my body. I have had three surgeries on my left wrist and I was close to quitting. I don’t have any words.

‘It’s so good for my team and my family. I am so proud to be playing tennis. I feel at home here. Merci beaucoup!’