Rafael Nadal reached the French Open final without dropping a set as Diego Schwartzman became the latest man to be dispatched with aplomb.
The Spaniard steadied after a late wobble to avenge his defeat to Schwartzman at the Italian Open in September, coming through 6-3 6-3 7-6(0) at Roland Garros.
He will draw level with Roger Federer (20) in the men’s all-time Grand Slam charts should he triumph in Sunday’s final, with Novak Djokovic blocking his path to a record-extending 13th title.
Highlights: King Nadal downs Schwartzman to reach 13th final
"Two and a half weeks ago, I lost in Rome," Nadal said in an on-court interview.
"I'm happy with the way I played, how I've improved, today was a very positive win for me. With these conditions it's very difficult, and it's still incredible to be in the final again.
It's a beautiful moment for me.
A marathon 14-minute opening game suggested the socially-distanced crowd in Court Philippe-Chatrier were in for a titanic encounter, but Nadal duly swatted away two break points to hold before cracking his opponent’s serve immediately to lead 2-0.
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The points were often sapping baseline duels, with neither serve making major inroads, and yet they always seemed to finish with a Nadal fist pump when the stakes were high.
'Bingo!' – Nadal fires brilliant winner to end gruelling rally
Nadal has never lost in Paris after winning the first set – he has tasted defeat just twice in 101 matches – so when he finally sealed the opener after 66 bruising minutes, the outcome looked inevitable.
He broke twice to race through the second set, breaking again at the start of the third to leave him on the cusp of victory.
But Schwartzman was not quite done. The Argentine dialled up the aggression, finally ripping through the impenetrable Nadal defence and fuelling hopes of a historic comeback.
'Holy smoke!' - Schwartzman makes 'magic' winner to wow commentators
Suddenly, Nadal’s game was littered with uncharacteristic errors as 4-2 became 4-4 and eventually, after some more gruelling baseline action, a tie-break.
But Nadal has forged a career on his ability to peak when it matters most and the 34-year-old rediscovered his groove, earning the first mini-break with glorious hands at the net.
Schwartzman’s composure deserted him from that moment on as a missed volley and wayward backhand saw him slip further behind, with a nightmare tie-break concluded when he found the net.
Nadal will chase his 100th win at the French Open against Djokovic and, on this evidence, will take some stopping.
'He almost deserved a bonus point!' - Schwartzman stuns Nadal with near-impossible winner
Wilander questions Schwartzman's serve tactics
Post-match analysis highlighted that Schwartzman barely varied his serve at all, with over 80% of his serves targeting the Nadal backhand.
"Early in the match, we even saw Rafa come up and return from on top of the baseline which I haven’t seen in a long time. So Rafa knew exactly what Schwartzman was serving," said Eurosport expert Mats Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam champion.
"I guess he felt that his first serve is not big enough to dare the Nadal forehand. But when you’re a set down, a break down, you have to change something and Schwartzman didn’t do that with his serve."