PARIS — Juan Martin del Potro is back in the French Open semifinals for the first time since 2009 and will next face Rafael Nadal, the man with the most appearances at this stage of the clay-court Grand Slam.
The fifth-seeded Del Potro, whose career has been hampered by injuries, beat third-seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 Thursday. Ten-time champion Nadal completed a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman. Both matches had been stopped by rain on Wednesday.
With his good run at Roland Garros, Del Potro is now guaranteed to return to the top four in the rankings for the first time in more than four years.
Del Potro fought back tears during his post-match interview and was loudly cheered by fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen.
“It’s tough to speak now,” the 2009 U.S. Open champion said. “It has been a long time without good feelings. I had three surgeries on my left wrist. I was close to (quitting).”
Del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2009 French Open semifinals, hit 31 winners against Cilic, including 19 aces.
He briefly lost his focus toward the end of the second set when he appeared to be distracted by a spectator just before hitting a double-fault to drop his serve and give Cilic a 5-4 lead. He confronted the fan, then smashed his racket as he returned to his chair at the changeover.
He eventually lost the set and found himself trailing 3-1 in the third set before turning things around, with Cilic largely undone by his 74 unforced errors.
Del Potro has won only five of his 14 previous matches against Nadal.
“I don’t know if I will win, but I will take a big love from you and that’s the most important for me,” he said.
Nadal was serving at 5-3, 30-15 after having dropped the first set when play was stopped on Wednesday. He came back on court in full swing and made Schwartzman run with a combination of deep groundstrokes and subtle drop shots. He was also able to raise his level when in danger, saving three break points in the eighth game of the third set with great shot-making, and four more in the final set.
Nadal is only the third male player in the Open era to reach 11 semifinals at a single Grand Slam, alongside Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors.
In women’s play, top-ranked Simona Halep qualified for the final by defeating 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-4.
Halep will play Madison Keys or Sloane Stephens in Saturday’s final. It will be her second consecutive Grand Slam final after she lost the title match at the Australian Open in January.
“I played again one of my best matches on clay,” Halep said after coming back from a break down in the second set.
Halep is guaranteed to remain the world No. 1 after the tournament.
Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Croatia’s Mate Pavic, meanwhile, lost their mixed doubles final on Thursday.
Dabrowski, a 26-year-old from Ottawa, and Pavic dropped the first set against Taiwan’s Latisha Chan and Croatia’s Ivan Dodig 6-1, but came back to win the second 7-6 (5). Dabrowski and Pavic lost the super-tiebreak 10-8.
Pavic and Dabrowski were the top seed in Paris, while Chan and Dodig were seeded second.
Dabrowski teamed with India’s Rohan Bopanna to win last year’s French Open mixed-doubles title and with Pavic to win the Australian Open mixed title earlier this year.