Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal is one of best rivalries in sport… but something has to give
The Swiss superstar has won the last six matches against his great Spanish rival. But the defending champion has beaten Federer 13 times out of 15 on clay – including all five times at the French Open – to lead their head-to-head record at 23-15 in one of the greatest rivalries in modern sport.
It is a fascinating match-up because Nadal has not beaten Federer since the Swiss took six months off in 2016 – and returned to tennis with a heavier racquet and more aggressive game plan.
The 37-year-old has now brought these tactics to Roland Garros where he is playing for the first time since 2015. The two have not met on clay since the 2013 Rome Masters.
Asked if he approaches matches with Nadal differently, Federer said: “There is always two ways to look at it. Of course I follow my schedule, I follow my game plan, what does my game allow me to do, what are the conditions like.
“But then of course I think with Rafa’s, particularly on clay, his strengths, what he brings to the table, you have to be aware, you know, who you’re playing against.
“I mean, always, but even more so against Rafa. And on top of it, because he’s a left-hander, it just changes everything.
“Because I guess I have played five guys now, you know, that are righties, so for me it’s a complete switch-around. Just the way the ball goes out of your strings with the different spins, it’s just different. So you have to get used to that quickly. Don’t have much time to waste.
“That’s why you have to be fearless to some extent to take on the spinny balls, the sliding balls, the kicking balls, and that’s what I will do on Friday.”
Rafael Nadal, who is chasing a new Grand Slam record of a 12th French Open title, said: “Being honest, personally, for me, the main thing is being in the semi-final.
“The way that I have been playing has been very positive. I have been playing well, very solid.
“Winning good matches against tough opponents like against Kei Nishikori. I am happy with that.
“Of course after having Roger in front in the semi-finals is an extra thing. We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other.
“So is another episode of this, and happy for that and excited, no? It will be special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.”