Roland Garros 2019: Roger Federer hopes to be 6th time lucky as he seeks first-ever Paris win over Rafael Nadal
The Swiss Maestro will attempt to post his first win over his great rival on Parisian soil and extend his recent winning streak against Nadal to 6 matches. Federer has only beaten the Spaniard on two occasions on clay (Hamburg and Madrid), although his last victory on that surface came a decade ago.
Nadal has tormented Federer on the red dirt, particularly at Roland Garros. The Spaniard won four finals at the French Open against the great Swiss and triumphed in their only other semifinal meeting which was in 2005.
In total, Nadal has a 5-0 record against Federer in Paris and 13-2 on clay overall. The 37-year-old Federer trails their overall head-to-head 23-15, but as mentioned before, the Swiss is 5-0 in their last five encounters, with his last defeat coming back at the 2014 Australian Open.
A lot has changed since the pair last met on clay (Rome 2013), with Federer switching to a much bigger racket and revamping his playing style significantly under the tutelage of Ivan Ljubicic.
Nadal - who enjoys a great friendship with the Swiss off court despite their rivalry - will attempt to ascend even further and claim a record-extending 12th Coupe des Mousquetaires.
The 32-year-old was a finalist in Melbourne earlier this year but struggled to maintain that form between February and the start of May. After pulling out injured from his scheduled semifinal meeting against Federer at Indian Wells, he failed to defend his crowns in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, where he was beaten by Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem respectively.
A mini-crisis ensued when he was stunned by Stefanos Tsitsipas in Madrid, raising serious questions about his form in the lead up to Roland Garros. However, the Spaniard resurrected his 2019 season in style when he swept past the field in Rome and claimed a confidence-boosting win in the final, beating his main threat in Paris, Novak Djokovic.
Prediction: This will be the 39th meeting between these two icons of men's tennis and no matter what history suggests we want to see them compete against each other as many times as possible.
Federer, in his press conference, referred to the 'power of sport', stating that just because someone walks in as a favorite does not mean they will exit as the winner.
The Swiss has a chance of upsetting the apple cart, even though it is a remote one. The odds are certainly stacked against him, but this is probably his final - and best - chance of beating the Spaniard at Roland Garros.
Federer would do well to pounce on short balls and end points as early as possible. It will also be interesting to see how the Swiss, now in possession of a newer, bigger racket, nullifies the cross-court forehand Nadal so often resorts to against the 20-time Slam champion.
That being said, the Spaniard is a monster on clay and it is highly unlikely Federer can remain ultra-aggressive without committing far too many errors over five sets.
Rafael Nadal to win in four sets.