Roger Federer withdrew at the Laver Cup in September. The Swiss played his last match alongside his great rival Rafael Nadal, making it one of the most emotional nights in tennis history. Nadal and Federer played their last matches in 2019, embracing in two duels at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and sharing the victories.
Rafa faced Roger in Paris for the first time since the 2011 final and scored a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 25 minutes in the semi-final. Thus, Nadal beat Federer for the tenth time in 14 duels in Majors and advanced to the 12th final in his beloved Major.
Rafa had lost all five of his previous matches against Roger, and was looking for his first victory over the Swiss since the 2014 Australian Open. Nadal was determined to finally outdo a great rival and extend his Parisian dominance, securing his 92nd win from 94 matches in his favorite tournament!
Nadal hit 33 winners and 19 unforced errors, facing four breaking chances and being broken twice. It took Roger a lot more than that to challenge the best clay-court player in his first semifinal in Paris since 2012, with 25 winners and 34 errors.
The Spaniard converted six of 16 break opportunities to control the score. He defended superbly and found an open court from challenging positions to neutralize Roger's attacks and keep the Swiss out of his comfort zone. The conditions were tough and windy, especially in the first set, when they had a hard time finding the rhythm and imposing their shots.
Things got better from the second set on, and Nadal dominated from the closing stages, playing well with serve and return to leave Federer far behind. Leading 3-0, Rafa lost the lead midway through the opening set and scored another break at 3-2 when Roger's forehand fell into the net.
Cilic reflects on King Roger
2022 was a year of high level for Marin Cilic. The Croatian returned to the fore based on great results and posh victories, including authentic displays, like the one he signed against Daniil Medvedev at Roland Garros.
But that is a closed chapter, a season that was very different from the current scenario. For example, at the beginning of that year Novak Djokovic was not in the big events, while there was still talk of a possible return of Roger Federer to the competition, although without clarified dates.
"We wanted Roger to never go away, because he's a great guy and obviously an inspiration not only to us gamers, but to a lot of guys around the world. Also, to a lot of these Next Gen players that are now in the elite he has been their greatest inspiration, their greatest reference, perhaps he is still their idol.
It is very difficult to assimilate that he is no longer there, it is clear that the circuit is different without him. However, I would say that we are still lucky: we have Rafa and Novak playing, and when I say playing I mean keeping that enthusiasm that keeps them up there. It's not the same without Roger, but I think the guys know the circuit looks different."