As it is, Rafael Nadal would be a big favorite to win his French Open semifinal, of course. He is, after all, a 12-time champion and a combined 24-0 in that round and finals at Roland Garros; he’s 9-1 against Friday’s opponent, Diego Schwartzman.
There’s also this working in Nadal’s favor: He is coming off a three-set quarterfinal; Schwartzman toiled for five sets across 5 hours, 8 minutes in his previous match.
That’s an advantage Nadal earned, in part, by being more efficient. He deserves any edge it gives him — just like Schwartzman had an edge in his quarterfinal against Dominic Thiem, who had gone five sets in the fourth round. That’s merely one reason that any discussion of switching from best-of-five-set matches to best-of-three for men at Grand Slam tournaments is misguided.
Others: The current format allows for more plot twists, more comebacks, more suspense, more drama; it makes major championships distinct from lesser events; it rewards superior stamina and focus; it fosters fascinating and — sometimes, though not always — memorable matches.
When Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 22-year-old from Greece who faces No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals Friday, talked about skipping school to watch Roland Garros on TV as a kid, the first match that sprang to mind was a 6-hour, 33-minute win for Fabrice Santoro over Arnaud Clement in 2004 that ended 16-14 in the fifth.
“I watched some epic thrillers, five-set matches,” Tsitsipas said.
Each of the past four Slam men’s finals went