The Spaniard, also looking to match Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, was stretched by the 19-year-old Sinner as he set up a clash with Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who beat him in the Italian Open quarter-finals last month.
The 34-year-old Nadal’s 97 previous victories at Roland Garros made the difference in key moments with the Spaniard rallying from a break down in the first two sets.
Sinner, the first French Open debutant to reach the last eight since Nadal in 2005, confirmed his immense potential but lacked just a bit of composure when it mattered.
“For two sets it was tough, especially in the second set I was lucky to be back,” said Nadal after a match played in cold conditions that ended at 0126 local time on Wednesday (October 7), the latest finish at a French Open.
“The conditions were a little bit difficult, he was hitting every ball very hard… now I have two, well almost one and a half days off to rest and practice.”
Nadal went into the contest having won 48 of his 50 service games but he was in trouble at 5-5 in the opener when Sinner broke.
Nadal had his first break points in the following game and he converted the third with a stunning forehand winner down the line.
The Spaniard was more consistent in the tiebreak as he moved one set up.
Sinner, who was three when Nadal first lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires, broke early in the second for a 3-1 lead.
Nadal against fought back immediately, breaking, as Sinner showed his first signs of frustration and the Spaniard broke again in the ninth game before wrapping the set on serve, having significantly raised his game.
Sinner, winner of last year’s ATP NextGen Finals, then hit a wall and despite the Italian’s best efforts and energy, Nadal moved 4-0 up and did not release his grip, ending it with an overhead smash.