PARIS (Reuters) -Alexander Zverev returned to the semi-finals of the French Open on Wednesday a year after leaving Roland Garros in a wheelchair, while defending champion Iga Swiatek also maintained her quest for a third title in four years.
Zverev had suffered a season-ending ankle injury in his last-four match against eventual champion Rafa Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2022 and had surgery, but complications later meant a return to pain-free action was delayed.
His comeback has gathered pace at Roland Garros and he beat unseeded Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 to book his place in the last four in Paris for a third time.
"It was the most difficult year of my life," Zverev said of his 2022 season. "I love tennis with all my heart and it was taken away a year ago.
"I'm happy to be back."
Zverev will run into Casper Ruud in the semi-finals after the 2022 runner-up beat error-prone sixth seed Holger Rune 6-1 6-2 3-6 6-3 in the night session.
"It's going to be hopefully a fun one," Ruud said of his next match. "I think it's great to see Sascha back. "Both for him and me, this is our biggest result this year. We'll try to play with shoulders down and just try to enjoy it.
"It's been a tough year for Zverev and he has fought his way back, and is back in the semis. The beginning of this year for me has not been great, so it's great to get a good result here."
Twice champion Novak Djokovic meets top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the other semi-final on Friday.
Swiatek was tested by sixth seed Coco Gauff in a rematch of their 2022 title clash but the world number one was too good for the American and closed out a 6-4 6-2 victory.
"I'm pretty happy to be in the semi-final again," Swiatek said. "It's a great achievement no matter how the tournament is going to finish.
"A semi-final is a really great result. Especially coming into the tournament as a defending champion, it puts a lot of pressure on you. I'm really happy I can show consistency and just play good here every year."
Seventh seed Ons Jabeur's hopes of becoming the first African woman to win a Grand Slam singles title were left in tatters after she was beaten 3-6 7-6(5) 6-1 by Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals.
Jabeur was bidding to reach her third Grand Slam semi-final in less than a year but Haddad Maia produced a superb display under pressure.
The world number 14 became the first Brazilian woman since Maria Bueno in 1968 to reach a major semi-final and the first female player from her country to book a last-four spot at Roland Garros in the Open Era.
"A tennis match is like a marathon. It's not a 100 metre race," Haddad Maia said. "I think one of my qualities is that I wait and I'm very patient and I never give up.
"So I wait for the moment because I know that my level is high. So even if I'm not playing well or even if I'm missing a few shots one moment, the tennis will appear, and I'll have my opportunity to go for it."
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in ParisEditing by Toby Davis)