Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been great rivals ever since their first clash in Miami 2004. Two grand champions did not have many opportunities to face each other in recent years, with their most recent encounters coming at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2019.
Federer did not play in Paris between 2016-2018 to stay focused on the grass season, changing that in 2019 and advancing into the semis. Facing Rafa at Roland Garros for the first time since 2011 final, Roger experienced a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 loss in two hours and 25 minutes.
Speaking about the match, Federer said it was one of their strangest encounters due to the wind, with many shots they usually can not play. At that time, Federer did not know if he would return to Paris again. It was Nadal's 14th win on clay against Federer from 16 matches and tenth in 13 Major encounters, moving into the title clash against Dominic Thiem.
Losing the previous five duels against Roger and seeking the first win since the Australian Open 2014, Rafa was determined to finally outplay a great rival and extend his Parisian dominance, securing the 92nd triumph from 94 matches at his favorite tournament!
Nadal hit 33 winners and 19 unforced errors, facing four break chances and getting broken only twice to mount the pressure on the other side. Roger needed more than that to challenge the greatest clay-courter in his first semi-final in Paris since 2012, firing 25 winners and 34 errors that usually plague his chances against Rafa on clay.
The Spaniard converted six out of 16 break opportunities to control the scoreboard, defending superbly and finding an open court from challenging positions to neutralize Roger's attacks and keep the Swiss outside the comfort zone.
Roger Federer recalled the 2019 Roland Garros semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal.
The conditions were harsh and windy, especially in the first set, where 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, playing well on both serve and return to leave Federer far behind and advance into the title clash.
Opening a 3-0 lead, Rafa lost the advantage in the middle of the opening set before scoring another break at 3-2 when Roger's forehand landed into the net. The Spaniard clinched the opener with a hold in game nine before the Swiss raised the level at the beginning of the second set to move 2-0 ahead.
Wasting a game point, Roger got broken in game three after Rafa's forehand winner. The defending champion had momentum and held after deuce in game eight, never looking back after that. He broke Roger in the next game from 40-0 down, taking five points in a row and securing the pivotal break with a volley winner.
Holding at love in game ten, Nadal 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 and could not end Nadal's streak or find a way of imposing his strokes.
Nadal grabbed breaks in games three and five and sealed the deal with a hold at 5-2 for yet another final in his kingdom. "It was a good tournament. I played well. This match against Rafa was, of course, completely dead with the wind.
I had experienced everything against him in the past, but it was quite funny playing against Rafa in these conditions. There were some exchanges that you normally can not play at all. Afterward, I was not disappointed. Sometimes, I even laughed internally at certain points that we played.
I was happy to have played in Paris. At that time, I did not know if I even wanted to return to Roland Garros," Roger Federer said.