This is a French Open like no other as Rafael Nadal discovered early on Wednesday as he ground out victory against Jannik Sinner in a match that finished at 01:26 a.m local time in Paris.
The Spaniard overcame 19-year-old Sinner 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-1 in temperatures that hovered around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), finishing in the early hours of the Paris morning, the latest finish ever at Roland Garros.
And although the 12-time French Open winner acknowledged the game’s early morning conclusion was a challenge, Nadal’s main problem was with the low temperatures.
“Of course, it is not an ideal finish, a match at 1.30 in the morning,” Nadal told the media after his victory.
“But the problem is the weather. The weather … it’s too cold to play tennis. I know football players do it all the time but they’re always moving while us tennis players, we stop, we come back, there’s the changeover.”
CNN have reached out to the French Open organizers to offer them the right of reply.
READ: After playing match with Covid-like symptoms, tennis star Alexander Zverev says he’s tested negative
Nadal and Sinner’s quarterfinal match began at 10:36 p.m. local time after four matches were played on Court Philippe-Chatrier before them.
Although late starts are not uncommon at other tennis grand slams such as the US and Australian Open, those tournaments are played during the summer, while this year’s French Open was moved from its usual place in the tennis calendar in May-June because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I really don’t know why they put five matches on the Chatrier today. That was a risk,” Nadal said.
“I saw immediately yesterday when they sent me the schedule because there is a chance there is a couple of long matches. That’s what happened. Little bit unlucky, of course.
“For me, I just tried to be patient, accept everything, and be in a positive shape. That’s what I did.”
Nadal is aiming for his 13th French Open and 20th grand slam title which will equal Roger Federer’s record.
Before this French Open, world No.2 Nadal had complained about the new balls and the cold weather making the courts heavier and negating the large amounts of spin he has become so accustomed to taking advantage of on clay-courts.
However, according to stats from the ATP, with rallies becoming longer because of the lack of spin, Nadal has in fact become more effective, as he wins over 65% of rallies that include more than four shots.
The win over the Italian Sinner was Nadal’s 100th match at Roland Garros. He is now 98-2 at the clay-court grand slam.
Visit CNN.com/sport for more news, features, and videos
Sinner was three when Nadal first lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires – and the 19-year-old took the positives from his run to the quarterfinals, in which he beat 11th seed David Goffin and US Open finalist Alexander Zverev amongst others.
“I’m a person who looks not in the future and not in the past, always in the present. It’s nice to hear. At the end you have to show everything. I didn’t win anything until now. OK, NextGen (Finals), it’s one tournament. At the end I didn’t won anything,” said Sinner.
“It’s just head down and trying to improve, trying to play hours after hours on court, which I need to do. I have a great team behind me. We will see in 12 months where I am.”
With his victory, Nadal set up a semifinal with Diego Schwartzman, who defeated Nadal in Rome last month.
Schwartzman advanced to his first grand slam semifinal thanks to a five-hour, five set thriller against US Open champion Dominic Thiem.