In one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will battle for the place in the final at Roland Garros, just like they did 14 years ago in 2005. Rafa won that one and the next four encounters in the finals, scoring all five wins over Roger at Roland Garros and 13 out of 15 against the Swiss on the slowest surface.
The great rivals have not played on dirt since Rome 2013 and we should see a much closer clash on Friday in comparison to that one from the Italian capital that Nadal won 6-1, 6-3, celebrating one of the most impressive triumphs over Roger in their great rivalry.
Nadal made Rome debut in 2005 at the age of 18, standing as one of the favorites and lifting the crown after a historic win over Guillermo Coria in five hours and 14 minutes! The rest is pretty much history and Rafa stood as the dominant figure in the Italian capital for almost ten years, winning seven titles in the first nine appearances before handing the trophy to Novak Djokovic in 2008 and 2011.
The last crown in this fantastic streak came in 2013 when Nadal survived stern tests from Ernests Gulbis and David Ferrer, spending more than five hours on the court in those encounters before beating Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4 in less than 80 minutes to preserve the energy for the final test.
On May 19, 2013, Rafa took down Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3 to conquer the seventh Rome title, dominating from start to finish to leave Roger far behind. The Swiss ousted Potito Starace, Gilles Simon, Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire to advance into his third Rome final where he needed something extra to challenge Nadal that day, with the Spaniard scoring his quickest win over Roger in 69 minutes!
Also, this was the 30th clash between two legends and the 20th victory for Nadal who landed 74% of the first serve in and lost only 12 points behind the initial shot. With nothing to work on the return except one break, Roger's serve was in danger all the time, dropping 55% of the points in his games and suffering five breaks from six chances offered to Rafa.
The Spaniard barely put a foot wrong, leaving Federer on some 30 errors and establish the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges that pushed him towards the finish line and the 24th Masters 1000 title, the second in a row after Madrid.
Roger held at 15 in the opening game with a volley winner and his forehand let him down two games later, spraying an error to give Nadal an early break and the momentum ten minutes since the start of the encounter. Rafa cemented the break with a hold at love and took full control with another rock solid return game that pushed him 4-1 in front thanks to a forehand crosscourt winner.
A service winner propelled Nadal 5-1 up, rattling off 20 of the last 25 points and securing the opening set with the third straight break in game seven after just 24 minutes following an easy volley error from Roger. Federer served at 82% and no one could have noticed that, with Nadal returning staggering 95% of the returns in, spraying too many errors and not being able to move Rafa from the comfort zone and his lethal forehand.
Things looked a little bit better for Roger at the beginning of the second set, creating a break chance in the opening game before getting broken in game two after a backhand crosscourt winner from the Spaniard who was a set and a break up now, marching towards another Rome crown.
Taking 26 out of 34 baseline rallies, Rafa held at love in game three with a service winner to extend the lead before Roger finally held in game four after deuces, reducing the deficit to 3-1 and hoping for something more on the return in the next games.
An outstanding backhand down the line gave Nadal another good hold in game five, hitting an even better one in the next point to break Roger and move a game away from the finish line. Serving for the crown, Nadal got broken at love although there were no mistakes at 5-3, holding at love and moving over the top with an unreturned serve, celebrating one of the most one-sided wins over Federer who couldn't have done anything to stop the Spanish avalanche on that day.