Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova eye French Open semi-finals

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Rafael Nadal sets his sights on a 27th Grand Slam semi-final when he faces Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in the French Open quarter-finals on Wednesday while Marin Cilic tackles Juan Martin del Potro in a battle of former US Open champions.

In the women’s last-eight, Maria Sharapova faces fellow former Paris champion Garbine Muguruza.

Top seed Simona Halep, twice a runner-up, takes on two-time major winner Angelique Kerber.

Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) v Diego Schwartzman (ARG x11)
Head-to-head: Nadal leads 5-0

— Nadal heads into his semi-final clash still on course for an incredible 11th French Open title, having not even dropped a set at Roland Garros since losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals.

The world number one has won all five of his meetings with 11th seed Schwartzman. The Argentinian said that the story of David and Goliath inspired him in a remarkable comeback from two sets down against Kevin Anderson, who is 13 inches taller than him, in the last 16.

But he will need an even more Herculean effort to get past Nadal, although he did take a set off the great Spaniard when they met in the Australian Open fourth round earlier this year.

Marin Cilic (CRO x3) v Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x5)
Head-to-head: Del Potro leads 10-2

— This has been a surprisingly one-sided rivalry between the two former US Open champions, with Del Potro having won his last seven matches against Cilic, only dropping sets during that time in a thrilling 2016 Davis Cup final clash.

But the Croatian is still one of the best players in the world, having lost both the Wimbledon and Australian Open finals to Roger Federer over the last 12 months.

Cilic expects some lengthy sets between the two big servers: “You never know what’s going to come. Obviously, you can expect one or two tie-breaks are going to happen.”

Maria Sharapova (RUS x28) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP x3)
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 3-0

— Sharapova, the champion in 2012 and 2014, made her first quarter-finals at the majors since her return from a doping ban when she was handed a walkover out of the fourth round by an injured Serena Williams.

The five-time Grand Slam champion, in her first Roland Garros since 2015, was 3-0 down in the final set of her first round clash against Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp but has been impressive since, knocking out sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in the third round.

Muguruza, the 2016 winner in Paris and reigning Wimbledon champion, has been unruffled and made the last-eight when Lesia Tsurenko retired after just two games of their last-16 clash.

Sharapova beat the Spaniard in three sets at the tournament in 2014.

Simona Halep (ROM x1) v Angelique Kerber (GER x12)
Head-to-head: Series level at 5-5

— World number one Halep, the runner-up in 2014 and 2017, survived a first round scare to defeat America’s Alison Riske but has been in cruise control ever since, happily going under the radar to make the quarter-finals.

In the last-16, she dropped just three games to see off Australian Open semi-finalist Elise Mertens in under an hour.

Kerber, a former US and Australian Open champion and ex-number one is in her second quarter-final in Paris, six years after her first.

The German left-hander had lost in the first round in the last two years.

Halep won their most recent encounter, 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 in the Australian Open semi-finals in January.

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