PARIS (AP) – Rafael Nadal trailed by a set and 0-40 before rallying to beat Spanish countryman Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 and reach the Paris Masters semifinals on Friday.
Nadal has never won the tournament in Paris and lost his only final 13 years ago. The top-seeded Spaniard next plays Alexander Zverev, who beat three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 7-6 (1) for a fourth straight win against the Swiss veteran.
Zverev has lost five of six matches against Nadal, although the fourth-seeded German’s one success was in straight sets at last year’s ATP Finals.
Nadal’s victory also ensured Diego Schwartzman the last slot at those finals, and at his rival Carreno Busta’s expense. Schwartzman advanced to the finals in London from November 15-22, despite earlier losing to Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-1 in their quarterfinal.
Carreno Busta is a confidence-crushing 0-7 overall against Nadal, but there might be a good reason why he’s never beaten him.
He looked in control against a jaded-looking Nadal after conceding only five points on his serve in the first set. “The problem was he was winning his serves too comfortably, I was not able to return enough well,” Nadal said. “I need to return better if I want to have chances to keep going.”
But Carreno Busta let Nadal off the hook by playing loose shots after having him 0-40 on his serve at the start of the second set.
The sloppy reprieve galvanised the 20-time Grand Slam champion into stepping up his game.
Nadal secured his first break of the match in the 12th game to avoid a hazardous tiebreaker, and took command after breaking his opponent to love for a 3-1 lead in the decider.
Wawrinka, meanwhile, served for the second set at 5-4 before wilting in the tiebreaker.
“I didn’t stay calm when I could have, that’s why I lost,” Wawrinka said. “I hurried a few points here and there.”
Earlier, the 2019 US Open runner-up Medvedev was first on court and off just one hour later following a brutal display of ball striking against Schwartzman.
“The level today was really good, so that’s a level I want to be all the time,” he said. “But it’s impossible in tennis.”
The big-hitting Russian did not face a break point and was near perfect on first serve winning 27 of 28 points. He was clinical, too, breaking Schwartzman twice in each set.
“Against Daniil, you have to put every single point, 15, 20 balls, not trying to do winners quickly,” said Schwartzman, who has lost all four career matches against him. “I didn’t have the patience to do it today.”
Medvedev next faces 2014 runner-up Milos Raonic, who saved two match points in beating unseeded Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) in their first meeting.
The Canadian saved the match points in a nail-biting tiebreaker, then concluded on his second match point with his 25th ace.
Humbert missed a big chance at the start of the deciding set, failing to punish Raonic when he was 0-40 down on serve.
Then, Humbert led 5-1 in the tiebreaker and earned match point when Raonic’s forehand went long. But Raonic held his nerve to save it with a forehand winner at the net following a long rally, and saved the second match point with a strong serve that Humbert patted into the net.
After Humbert saved match point at 7-6, he fluffed a routine backhand down the line to make it 8-7 to Raonic, who let out a loud shout after an ace.