Rafael Nadal‘s first match with Roger Federer at the French Open in eight years finished just like all the others: a Nadal victory to extend his dominance on the Roland Garros red clay.
Nadal, eyeing a 12th French Open title, swept Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach Sunday’s final (9 a.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). He will play No. 1 Novak Djokovic or No. 4 Dominic Thiem. Thiem led Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 3-1 before forecasted rain stopped play for the day. Their match will resume Saturday (6 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).
Nadal broke Federer in the Swiss’ first service game and six times total for the match. He’s 6-0 against Federer at the French Open, including finals wins in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Federer entered the blustery semifinal having won the last five matches of their rivalry, but they had not met since 2017. Nadal beat Federer for the first time since the 2014 Australian Open, improving to 24-15 against the player he calls the greatest ever. It’s 14-2 in Nadal’s favor on clay.
In addition to all the stats, Friday’s wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour played a role in this.
“You get to a point where you’re just happy to make shots and not look ridiculous,” Federer said. Red clay whipped into players’ and fans’ faces. “It just adds to the equation. He’s the best clay-court player, so I can accept that.”
Now, Nadal is one match win from moving within two Slams of Federer’s total (20 to 18) for the first time since 2004, when Federer had two and Nadal had none. But Nadal has played 14 previous Grand Slams with a chance to move within two of Federer and failed each time.
“Five years ago, we would not have envisioned being at this level of our career with that level of tennis,” Nadal said of a rivalry that’s now spanned 15 years. “For the tournament and for Federer, the fact that Federer is back on clay and competitive again, it’s something important. And I think that he will go away with good sensations, because he fought very well to win Roland Garros.”
Federer, at 37 returning to Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, may have played the French Open for the last time.
“Next year, just like with any other tournament, I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. But I definitely enjoyed the clay-court season and the French Open, so that would help the chances, I guess, to return to the clay.”
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