Roger beats Stan, Rafa next

 - Alex Sharp

Roger Federer ousts Stan Wawrinka in four to set up a showdown with Rafael Nadal.

Roger Federer© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Roger Federer weathered the storm to gain Roland-Garros revenge over Swiss companion Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, setting up a scorching semi-final with perennial rival Rafael Nadal.

“I'm very happy to be back in another semi-finals of a Grand Slam. It hasn't happened, you know, in the last year or so,” said Federer, after booking his first semi-final in Paris since 2012. “I exceeded my expectations here. After missing the French for so many years it’s a great feeling. I have the match with Rafa, and I'm clearly excited.”

Federer soared through his first week back at Roland-Garros since 2015, entering Court Suzanne-Lenglen with a commanding 22-3 record when facing his fellow Swiss.

However, the 2009 champion warned of the “danger” facing his countryman on clay, with Wawrinka “crushing” his countryman four years ago en route to the title. 

“The match was obviously particularly interesting in many levels against Stan, who I know so, so well,” reflected Federer. “So it was always going to be tough. And then with the rain delay, you add that into it, it was super interesting, but I was able to hold my nerve.”

There were justified concerns that the five-set, five-hour, fourth-round classic on Sunday against Stefanos Tsitsipas would have wilted Wawrinka’s physical and mental resolve, but that was far from the case.

A rally locked at 3-3 culminated with the captivated crowd applauding like the end of an encore at a concert; these Swiss maestros were putting on a show.

Federer kept probing with his depth and variety of shot, but ‘Stan’ dismissed a quartet of break points to take the set to a tie-break.

Sensing Wawrinka’s sprint to the net, Federer curled a toe-tapping backhand to force a volley error and gained the crucial 4-2 advantage, before taking the opener.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion threatened to pull clear but Wawrinka was still intent on channelling his 2015 heroics. 

A shoulder-height hooked cross-court forehand sparked Stan into a 2-1 break lead in the second set, with brave and bold shot-making vanishing the opportunities for Federer to then level the match at a set apiece.

In the third set, deep behind the baseline, Wawrinka catapulted a backhand returner winner cross court and broke for 4-3, orchestrating the crowd to raise their roars of approval.

Roger roars back

The third seed responded, rattling through two straight games, but couldn’t close out two set points. Another tie-break was required, with another majestic moment from Federer proving the difference. On the second point the 37-year-old canvassed the net and managed to absorb a blistering Wawrinka forehand to deflect an acute volleyed winner. It was practically behind Federer on contact as Wawrinka signalled a t­­humbs up to his friend.

Midway through the fourth the forecasted storms unleashed over the grounds at Roland-Garros, halting play at 3-3. Not even the elements could deny Federer, who upon the players' return to the court hurled a series of forehands with too much velocity for Stan to handle, before converting a third match point with a 41st winner at net.


Looking ahead to the 39th instalment of his rivalry with Nadal, Federer is defiant he can overturn some daunting statistics. 

The 11-time Roland-Garros champion has beaten Federer in all five of their clashes on the terre battue in Paris, while Nadal hasn’t lost to the third seed on clay since Madrid in 2009.

“Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance," Federer said. “You just never know. He might have a problem. He might be sick. You might be playing great or for some reason he's struggling. Maybe there's incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don't know.

“That's why you need to put yourself in that position. For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches here for me to win to get there. That's why I'm very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there.

"I knew that when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that's gonna happen. If I would have had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay.”