Rafael Nadal was a player to beat in 2019, securing two Major titles and his fifth No. 1 of the year ahead of Novak Djokovic. Rafa had 58 wins that season and one of his most prized came in the Roland Garros semi-final against his old rival Roger Federer.
It was his fourteenth meeting at the Majors (the fifteenth was just around the corner at Wimbledon). Rafa got the tenth victory after a triumph by 6-3, 6-4 and 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes. Nadal had lost all five of his previous matches against Federer and was keen to change that on his favorite court, facing Roger in Paris for the first time since the 2011 final.
Rafa advanced to his 12th Roland Garros final after hitting 33 winners and 19 unforced errors. He faced four break chances and was only broken twice to mount the pressure on the other side. It took much more than that for Roger to challenge the best clay-court player in his first semi-final in Paris since 2012.
He fired 25 winners and 34 errors and lost serve six times out of 16 chances offered to him by Rafa. The Spaniard controlled the scoreboard, defending magnificently and finding an open court from challenging positions to keep the Swiss out of the comfort zone.
The conditions were tough and windy, especially in the first set, and both had a hard time finding their rhythm and imposing their shots. Things picked up from the second set, with Nadal dominating in the closing stages to leave Federer far behind.
Leading 3-0 in the first set, Rafa lost ground a bit before scoring another break at 3-2 when Roger's forehand landed in the net. The Spaniard completed the first game on serve from him in the ninth game before Roger raised the level early in the second set to take a 2-0 lead.
Federer wasted a game point and got broken in the third game after a forehand winner from Nadal.
Nadal reflects on Carlos Alcaraz
“It was a fight with myself, a little bit. I couldn't show my best performance here.
Obviously it was tough to handle that moments knowing that I'm not playing my hundred percent. All I can say is that it was the first time that I couldn't handle the pressure. I felt the pressure to be the No. 2 seed in this kind of tournament, No.
4 in the world. It was the first time that I felt that pressure and I couldn't handle it,” Rafael Nadal said. Speaking in an interview with the official ATP website, Nadal said that Alcaraz has all the right people next to him and that one can enjoy playing without any burden in their initial years.
“I think he [Carlos Alcaraz] has the right people next to him. I don't have to tell him [any advice on handling pressure] anything, until he asks me. I think when you are very young and you are coming up and growing in the rankings just every week, in some way things are a little bit easier because you don't have that pressure that you have to win every week,” Nadal said.