Roger Federer’s impressive return to Roland Garros has led him to a semifinal meeting with the still dominant 11-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Federer saw off fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in his quarterfinal, while Nadal crushed Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-1 6-3.
It means the great rivals will face each other at Roland Garros for the first time since the 2011 final – and the first time on clay since Rome in 2013.
“My next opponent is not too bad. He can play on clay, unfortunately,” a smiling Federer joked to the crowd.
“What a pleasure, actually. If I decided to come back to play on clay, it was maybe to play Rafa.”
Roger Returns ????@rogerfederer reaches his first Roland-Garros semi-final since 2012 in a gritty 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(5) 6-4 victory over Stan Wawrinka.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2019
Third seed Federer subdued some fierce Wawrinka resistance on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The 37-year-old took a tight opening set but 24th seed Wawrinka broke early in the second on his way to levelling it.
Wawrinka appeared to be gaining the upper hand when he broke the Federer serve midway through the third set but Federer hit back immediately and played another great tiebreaker.
Dark storm clouds closed in as the battle continued in the fourth set and play was interrupted for an hour at 3-3.
On the restart Wawrinka dropped serve at 4-4 to leave Federer serving for the match.
He double-faulted on one match point and needed to save a break point but finally sealed victory with a volley.
Nadal continued his march towards a record-extending 12th French Open title by steamrolling a sorry Nishikori.
The second seed, who now has a 91-2 win-loss record at the claycourt Grand Slam, was barely bothered by seventh seed Nishikori as he set up a mouth-watering last-four meeting with 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer.
“Being honest, personally for me the main thing is being in the semifinal,” Nadal said.
“Of course after having Roger in front in the semifinals is an extra thing. We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other.
“So it is another episode of this, and happy for that and excited, no? It will be a special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.”
Considering Nishikori had a 0-4 win-loss record against Nadal on clay, his chances of narrowing that run on Tuesday were slim.
Despite his usual early nerves, the Spaniard raced through the opening set.
Nishikori broke back for 1-1 but that effort proved to be his undoing as Nadal won the remaining five games to lead two sets to love.
The match was interrupted at 4-2 because of a fast approaching thunderstorm, but the hour-long delay failed to hand Nishikori a lifeline.
Upon resumption, Nadal swiftly ended Nishikori’s nightmare, wrapping it up on the first match point to reach the last four in Paris for the 12th time.
He is bidding to become the first player to win the same Grand Slam 12 times, but must first get past Federer in what will be the 39th instalment of their rivalry.
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