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Roland Garros 2019 semifinal: Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer, a clash for the ages

ANALYST
Feature
06 Jun 2019, 14:10 IST

Roger Federer (L) and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer (L) and Rafael Nadal

The long wait is finally over. Ever since Roger Federer announced his comeback on clay earlier this year, fans hoped and wished for a clash against Rafael Nadal to happen at some point in the ongoing clay season.

The two were meant to meet a little earlier this year too, again in the semi-finals, at Indian Wells. However, Nadal’s recurring knee injury forced the Spaniard to pull out of the clash against his arch-rival, and the millions of their fans who were anticipating a blockbuster contest were left disappointed.

Now, the two most decorated tennis players of this generation are all set to square off against each other in their upcoming semi-final clash at Roland Garros.

Nadal, the ‘King of Clay’, cruised into his 13th quarterfinal on his beloved red dirt of Paris with a dominant straight-sets victory over Kei Nishikori in under 2 hours. In the process, he sent his long-time rival as well as all the other players left in the draw a strong message.

Federer, the Swiss maestro who didn’t drop a single set in the lead-up to his quarter-final clash against Stan Wawrinka, faced a stern test before he overcame his compatriot in four tense sets 7-6(7-4), 4-6, 7-6(7-5), 6-4 to reach his first semi-final at Roland Garros since 2012.

The two stalwarts of the game have faced each other an epic 38 times, and it is the Spaniard who leads the head-to-head 23-15. However, Federer has been in the ascendancy lately, with five consecutive wins over Nadal.

At the start of 2017, Federer and Nadal, at the age of 35 and 30 respectively, renewed their rivalry after coming back from injury and faced each other four times in the year. And the Spaniard simply had no answers, being overwhelmed by Federer’s newfound aggression on the backhand side. Nadal lost three of the matches in straight-sets apart from losing in the epic five-set Australian Open final.

Nadal's last win over the Swiss maestro came way back at Melbourne in 2014. However, Federer last won against the Spaniard on clay 10 years ago, when he upset Nadal in straight sets in the final of the 2009 Madrid Masters.

Nadal has been Federer’s biggest nemesis throughout the latter's career, especially on clay. In their 15 meetings on the surface, it has been a case of one-way traffic as Nadal has simply been unconquerable in his fortress. The Spaniard has dominated Federer with a colossal 13-2 record against his long-time rival on clay.

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Moreover, the duo have squared off five times in the past on Parisian clay at Roland Garros. And the harder Federer tried to conquer Nadal, the more he failed, succumbing on all five occasions against the ‘King of Clay’.

Also, Nadal is 3-0 against Federer in Grand Slam semifinals. The only time Nadal and Federer contested a semi-final at Roland Garros was way back in 2005 - their first ever meeting not only on clay, but also at the French Open. Nadal won that match in four sets.

The upcoming clash between the two titans of the game will be their first in nearly two years. What are the factors that make this tussle particularly significant?

2019 French Open - Rafael Nadal
2019 French Open - Rafael Nadal

The Spaniard hasn’t won a single match at a Major against either Federer or Novak Djokovic since his win over the Serb to win Roland Garros back in 2014. Having suffered through several painful Slam defeats at the hands of Djokovic in the recent past, Nadal would be desperately hoping for a turnaround in his fortunes against his fellow Big 3 members.

With Djokovic as his potential opponent in the final, Nadal would have his sights set on beating Federer and clearing the first hurdle in his bid for revenge. The Spaniard would also look to halt his five-match losing streak against the Swiss maestro.

2019 French Open - Roger Federer
2019 French Open - Roger Federer

Federer on his part is yet to beat Nadal at the French Open, despite achieving pretty much everything there is to achieve in tennis. For the Swiss, who turns 38 in August, this might be his last chance to finally defeat the ‘King of Clay’ in his own fortress.

Time is running out for Federer, and Nadal has appeared vulnerable on clay this season, having suffered three semifinal defeats. Federer might never get a better opportunity to beat Nadal on the red dirt of Paris.

And last but not the least, Nadal taking on Federer is like a celebration of tennis in itself. The fans would look to enjoy every moment of this remarkable rivalry while it lasts, because with both being in the twilight of their career, the upcoming match could very well turn out to be their last against each other at the Slam level.

Episode No. 39 of 'Fedal' promises to be a high-octane, intriguing and spectacular contest. The fans are all waiting anxiously for the drama to unfold.

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