Rafael Nadal was a player to beat in 2019, securing two Major titles and his fifth year-end no. 1 honor ahead of Novak Djokovic. Rafa scored 58 wins that season and one of the most cherished ones came in the Roland Garros semi-final against his old rival Roger Federer.
It was their 14th encounter at Majors (the 15th was just around the corner at Wimbledon). Rafa earned the tenth victory following a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 25 minutes. Nadal had lost the previous five matches against Federer and was eager to change that on his favorite court, facing Roger in Paris for the first time since 2011 final.
Rafa advanced to his 12th Roland Garros final after hitting 33 winners and 19 unforced errors. He faced four break chances and got broken only twice to mount the pressure on the other side. Roger needed much more than that to challenge the greatest clay courter in his first semi-final in Paris since 2012.
He fired 25 winners and 34 errors and lost serve six times from 16 chances offered to Rafa. The Spaniard controlled the scoreboard, defending superbly and finding an open court from challenging positions to keep the Swiss outside the comfort zone.
The conditions were harsh and windy, especially in the first set, and they both struggled to find the rhythm and impose their shots. Things improved from set number two, and Nadal took the upper hand from the closing stages to leave Federer far behind.
Forging an instant 3-0 advantage in the opener, Rafa lost ground a bit before scoring another break at 3-2 when Roger's forehand landed in the net. The Spaniard completed the opener with a hold in game nine before Roger raised the level at the beginning of the second set to move 2-0 ahead.
Wasting a game point, Federer got broken in game three after Nadal's forehand winner.
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the 2019 Roland Garros semi-final in straight sets.
The Spaniard held after deuce in game eight to remain on the positive side.
Rafa broke Roger in the next one from 40-0 down, taking five points in a row and clinching the pivotal break with a volley winner that proved to be the encounter's crucial moment. Nadal held at love in game ten and moved two sets to love up after an hour and 45 minutes, determined to get the job done in the third.
Federer had nothing more left in the tank, unable to end Nadal's streak and find a way to impose his strokes and change the match's course. Nadal broke in games three and five and sealed the deal with a hold at 5-2 for yet another final in his kingdom.
"Playing against Roger Federer at Roland Garros for the first time since 2011 felt great, although I never felt obligated to win. Before the encounter, I was convinced that I was playing well and felt ready for the clash, confidently stepping on the court.
When someone is certain about his abilities, the pressure naturally fades away. Still, it was a very windy day that made the match complicated for both of us. To beat Federer, you have to be at your maximum, and that does not change," Rafael Nadal said.