PARIS, June 4, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will go head-to-head in the semi-finals of the 2019 French Open, about 14 years after they first faced each other in the stage of the final four in Paris in 2005.
In his quarter-final, third-seeded Federer came through in the Swiss derby against Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in three hours and 35 minutes. In the other, the second-seeded Spaniard raced past Japan’s seventh seed Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 51 minutes. Both matches were briefly interrupted by rain before the top-seeded players advanced to the penultimate stage of the tournament.
Shanked break points matter
Except for the second set and in the initial part of the third set, Federer was in absolute control of the match, bringing up a flurry of break points to take the lead. However, Wawrinka’s steely serve and ill-timed errors from Federer meant the higher-ranked Swiss was unable to convert most of them.
Federer’s break point conversion was a paltry 11 per cent. In the course of the match, he converted only two of the 18 break point chances he had. Wawrinka, on the other hand, converted two of the five break point opportunities he had on his compatriot’s serve. One of the break points, Federer saved came while he served for the match in the 10th game of the fourth set.
Between both players, it was Wawrinka who went for broke on each of his shots directing the ball fast and furiously in predominantly backhand-to-backhand exchanges. This penchant of his, however, meant his game came constantly under threat even. The margin of winners between the two players was not that much – 54 to Wawrinka to Federer’s 53. However, the 61 unforced errors the 2015 French Open champion hit saw to it that Federer won 168 points for the match to Wawrinka’s 152.
“I exceeded my expectations here. After missing the French for so many years, it’s nice to be back in the semis, so that’s a great feeling,” Federer said.
“Now I have the match with Rafa, and I’m clearly excited. I hope I can recover well in the next couple days, which I’m sure I will, and I’ll give it my best shot on Friday.”
Nadal’s ruthlessness continues
Away from this chaotic hustle, Nadal had no problems in dealing with Nishikori to surge into his 12th French Open semi-final. A day after his 33rd birthday, Nadal hit 29 winners to Nishikori’s 17, and finished the match with 88 points to the Japanese’s 55.
“I have been playing well, very solid. Winning good matches against tough opponents like today. I am happy with that,” Nadal said.
The 11-time champion is unbeaten in his 11 previous semi-final appearances in Roland Garros. He is also 22-0 combined in the semi-finals and finals in Paris, five of which have come against Federer himself.
“Of course after having Roger in front in the semifinals is an extra thing. We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other,” Nadal is looking forward to the encounter.
“So is another episode of this, and happy for that and excited, no? Will be special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.”
Speaking of rivalries, this will be chapter no. 39 of the Federer-Nadal rivalry. The Spaniard leads their head-to-head 23-15 although the World No. 3 has won all their past five previous meetings. None of these were on clay, with this being their first clash on clay coming in the semi-final of the 2013 Italian Open. Nadal won that encounter 6-1, 6-3.