PARIS, June 7, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Spaniard Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer’s five-match winning streak against him, as he defeated the Swiss 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes in their semi-final at Roland Garros.
Despite the straightforward reading of the score-line, Federer went toe-to-toe with the 11-time champion in the opening two sets. The second set looked – and was – pivotal with the 2009 champion gaining an early break in the second game to go up 2-0. However, he was broken right back. The match, then, veered firmly in Nadal’s corner as the Mallorcan broke Federer in the ninth game of the set after the latter had three game points. After consolidating the break to take a two-sets-to-love lead, Nadal pummelled his way forward in what remained of the match.
Federer also looked mentally out of the game after his abrupt loss of the second set, and Nadal widened his lead in the third set to two breaks of serve. The 20-time Slam champion held his serve twice but Nadal wrapped it up fast, in what was the quickest set of the match in 40 minutes.
The howling wind made it difficult for both players but it was Nadal who adapted to the feisty conditions better. His game was all-court and on-point even as Federer struggled to get his rhythm going. The only time Federer looked comfortable in the match was in the second set where he did not let the conditions get to him.
In his post-match press conference, Federer specifically alluded to him losing the second set as being a “regret” of his in the match. “Second set, I think there is definitely the biggest regret is to get broken at 2-love with the wind in my back,” Federer shared. But he also did not shy away from giving credit to his opponent.
“If I can avoid that one, maybe the second set turns out to be different. But I think holding serve against the wind with Rafa’s quality on the return is just really hard, you know. He barely misses any. And then when he’s in the rally, he plays with great spin on the forehand, great sort of control on the backhand side. So it’s just really hard to find holes, especially in the wind, if you’re trying to hit through the ball, which is really difficult, actually. But it was windy for both. He was better, no doubt about it. But I had maybe mini chances today, but they were not big enough to win today.”
This is Nadal’s 12th final at Roland Garros, twice as many as that of Bjorn Borg. When asked about reaching this milestone, Nadal joked, “No, yes, is incredible, being honest, no?” Then, in a serious tone, he went on, “Is something very special and difficult to explain, but here we are. And the day that we start thinking about if it’s incredible or not probably will be the day to do another thing. So, what I have to do today is not think about if it’s incredible, because it’s a real thing for me. Even if it’s something I never dreamed about five, six, eight years ago, it’s happening today. And my goal is just to try to keep going. Is not about have excess of ambition but is about just try to keep enjoying the things that I am doing.”
Novak Djokovic gets a reprieve
Nadal now awaits the winner of the match between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem. Play was stopped on Friday with the Austrian leading the Serbian 6-2, 3-6, 3-1 and will be resumed on Saturday.
Earlier during the initial moments of the match, Djokovic, the 2016 champion, was discomfited that the match was being played despite the wind. The players left the court briefly during the second set at 3-all and when play resumed, Djokovic went on hold the upper hand before taking the set to equal the match at a set apiece. At the time of stoppage of play, the sun was shining and there was no sign of rain.
The Federation of French Tennis (FFT) in its press statement said it would offer full refund to patrons, who had bought the tickets for the Djokovic-Thiem semi-final.