Friday’s meeting in the French Open semi-finals will be the first time since October 2017 that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have faced each other.
Federer won that encounter in the Shanghai Masters final. It was the first time he had beaten Nadal four times in a row.
When asked post-match how he had found an edge over the man who leads their career rivalry 23-15, Federer said: “I’ve not played so much on clay – that’s helped me not lose there!”
Unfortunately for Federer, clay is the surface he will face Nadal on for their 39th career meeting. He is 2-12 against Nadal on clay and has lost all five of their matches at Roland Garros.
So it does not look good for Federer, but there are reasons why the 20-time major winner should not be discounted from making it sixth time lucky on Friday.
Considering he has not played at the French Open since 2015, Federer’s level has been high. He was injured in 2016 and then chose to sit out the entire clay season in 2017 and 2018 to allow himself to rest ahead of Wimbledon.
He returned to the red surface in Madrid last month and showed he could contend by beating Gael Monfils and losing a thriller to Dominic Thiem.
Federer was relatively untroubled in the first four rounds in Paris and then played some superb tennis to see off in-form compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the quarters.
Wawrinka was superb, hitting the ball with real power at times, but Federer hung with his younger rival and prevailed. The 37 year old has his eye in and he is well set for the challenge of Nadal.