Nadal Ousts Federer, Advances to 12th French Open Final
It was the 39th meeting of the sport's greatest rivalry. Will it be the last?
For two sets, he executed his game plan perfectly. We’re talking, of course, about Roger Federer, who Rafael Nadal dispatched at a canter in the semifinals of the French Open this morning, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
Whenever Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play each other, you’re seeing one of the great sports rivalries in action. They’d played 38 times entering Friday’s match, with Nadal winning 23 of them, including a dominant 13-2 record on clay courts. But Federer was on a surprising five-match win streak in the series, a legendary comeback win in the 2017 Australian Open final among them.
On this day, though, Nadal would not be bested.
The Swissman threw the kitchen sink at his Spanish opponent, playing clean, aggressive tennis off both wings early. He earned a break point in the first game. He came to net more than 30 times. A graphic on the Tennis Channel showed that his average backhand contact point was more than a foot closer to the baseline than it had been the last time the two played here, all the way back in 2011.
But the red dirt of Roland Garros does not take kindly to Federer’s brand of mixed-spin, strike-first tennis. It is a canvas for a different kind of player: one who is dogged and tireless, and equipped with heavy, penetrating groundstrokes that can withstand its capacity to turn matches into marathons. And the man from Mallorca — who now boasts an astounding 92-2 record here, having won 11 titles — is that very player, as if cast from a mold.
When Nadal broke Federer in the second game of the third set, Federer smashed a ball into the upper stands in frustration, his fate sealed. The rest of the match was academic, though it produced a few more moments of brilliance and improvisation from both players.
Federer will now rest his weary body before gearing up for Wimbledon, his favored stomping ground. He turns 38 in August, an age once thought insurmountable for an elite men’s player. Nadal, meanwhile, will await the winner of Friday’s second semifinal, between world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and world no. 4 Dominic Thiem, himself a clay-court specialist.
There’s no telling when — or if — the two player will meet again. But if the gods have anything to say about it, the final salvo is surely still to come.
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