Alexander Zverev returned to the Philippe Chatrier court on crutches.

Accompanied by Rafael Nadal, Zverev limped towards the referee's chair and announced what everyone already suspected: due to a foot injury, the Olympic tennis champion had to play his semi-final against the 13-time Paris champion on Friday at a score of 6: 7 (8:10). 6: 6 give up after more than three hours of play from his point of view.

What a drama, what a bitter end to an unbelievable game at the Stade Roland Garros.

Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, now has the chance on Sunday (3 p.m. on Eurosport) to win his 14th title at the French Open and to extend his record of 21 triumphs in Grand Slam tournaments so far.

In the second semi-final, Norwegian Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic from Croatia will meet on Friday evening.

But Nadal couldn't really be happy about his repeated entry into the final.

"It's very hard for him.

I am very sorry about that.

He played incredible tennis," Nadal said in the on-court interview.

“I know how hard he is fighting to win a Grand Slam tournament.

I'm sure he won't just win one, but several," said the Spaniard about Zverev.

“To be back in the Paris final is a dream.

But at the moment it's hard to find words when I just saw him crying in the dressing room."

Serenading Nadal

Zverev cried out loud after twisting his ankle and lay on the ground.

The 25-year-old was pushed off the pitch in a wheelchair.

"He's not coming back," said his brother Mischa, a TV expert at Eurosport, who was already shocked.

A little later, Zverev came back on crutches, accompanied by Nadal, took off his shoe and socks on his right foot and gave up with a hug from Nadal.

Zverev had previously given Nadal a splendid fight and repeatedly put the clay court king in trouble.

However, the German number one was unable to take advantage of many opportunities.

There was an electrifying atmosphere at the Stade Roland Garros right from the start.

As soon as he entered the Philippe Chatrier court, Nadal received an ovation.

The spectators rose from their seats and applauded - as if they could admire the exceptional Spanish talent live for the last time.

In honor of his birthday, the audience even serenaded.

The obligatory presentation of the Spaniard by stadium announcer Marc Maury lasted exactly 1:22 minutes.

That's how long it takes to list all of Nadal's successes at Stade Roland Garros.

Everything was set for the next Rafael Nadal show on the red sands of Paris.

Because of the rain in the French capital, the roof over the largest stadium in the complex was closed.

There was a party atmosphere when Nadal opened the game at 3:05 p.m.

But Zverev wasn't impressed by any of this at first.

The German number one played aggressively from the start and surprised Nadal with numerous unattainable shots.

Right at the start he took the serve from the Spaniard.

A murmur went through the arena.

There had probably never been encouraging "Rafa, Rafa" calls at such an early stage in Paris.

For seven games, Zverev then played the best tennis he had ever played in a Grand Slam tournament.

But then suddenly there was a break in the game of the German.

Nadal, who had been playing with chronic foot problems for weeks, was still far from his top form, but Zverev suddenly made many minor mistakes.

So he let Nadal back into the game, and the Spaniard made the break to make it 4: 4 to equalize.

After that, the game went back and forth.

When the score was 4: 5, Zverev fended off three set balls from Nadal and then did not use two break balls in the Spaniard's subsequent service game.

In the tie-break, Zverev suddenly had four set balls.

Zverev missed one with a slight volley error, Nadal fended off the rest in a manner known from him on the Center Court in Paris - simply world class.

But Zverev resisted, fended off two more set balls from Nadal, only to lose the first round after 1:31 hours - because Nadal used his sixth set ball with an incredible passing ball to the deafening cheers of the spectators.

The back and forth continued in the second set.

Zverev immediately lost serve but fought back and continued to make life incredibly difficult for Nadal.

When the score was 5:3, he served to win the set, but made three double mistakes.

The decision seemed to be made again in the tie-break, but then the drama happened and Zverev gave up.