Nadal beats Federer to reach RG final

Nadal extends winning record over Federer to 6-0 in Paris thanks to straight-sets win.

Rafael Nadal© Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

An ominous storm carrying an ominously Spanish name had Paris on alert on Friday.

Storm Miguel was closing in and had already battered the west of France with wind gusts of up to 130km/h.

The fringe effects reached Roland-Garros on Friday afternoon, in perfect correlation with Rafael Nadal’s timing as the Spaniard whipped up his own brutal storm cell on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The 11-time champion handled the trying conditions better to dismiss his great rival, Roger Federer, for the sixth straight time on the Paris clay.

The 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory was his 14th from 16 matches on the terre battue and snapped a five-match losing streak to the Swiss.

It was his first victory over Federer in more than five years.

“The conditions out there today have been so hard, so difficult to manage,” Nadal said. “[It] was the day to be just focused, accept all the adversities, and just be focused on positives all the time. That's what I tried to do.”

Wild winds left the court swirling with clay dust, the odd Panama hat, and ball kids scampering to gather wayward geranium petals throughout the match.

In the pair’s 39th showdown, Nadal left Federer, too, scrambling amid the dust plumes with few answers to his mastery of the clay.

It was a scrappy start from both before the Spaniard amplified the storm intensity up Federer’s end with an angled backhand crosscourt winner to hold for 5-2.

A huge gust of clay lifted from the court as the No.2 seed served for the opening set and despite shanking wide on his first opportunity, he ripped a running backhand winner to seal it after 53 minutes.

It was 10 years to the day since Federer’s lone Roland-Garros title, and chants of “Roger, Roger” began to ring around the stadium as they had done in that triumphant final.

He broke to take a 2-0 advantage but could not consolidate as he met with another cold front when Nadal looped a forehand down the line.

The forecast was especially bleak for the Swiss when from 40-0 up at 4-all, he dropped serve and his opponent charged to a two-set lead.

“Definitely the biggest regret is to get broken at 2-love with the wind in my back,” Federer said.

“If I can avoid that one, maybe the second set turns out to be different. But I think holding serve against the wind with Rafa's quality on the return is just really hard. He barely misses any.

“And then when he's in the rally, he plays with great spin on the forehand, great sort of control on the backhand side. So it's just really hard to find holes, especially in the wind, if you're trying to hit through the ball.

“He makes you feel uncomfortable the way he defends the court and plays on clay. There is nobody who even plays remotely close to him.

"I don't even know who I need to go search for to go practise with somebody who plays like him."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Nadal all but hammered in the final nail when he broke after a net-cord pass caught the tape and drew the errant volley, prompting the Swiss to skyrocket a ball out of the stands.

More than two years had passed since one of their greatest tussles and their last in a Grand Slam: the match to decide the 2017 Australian Open.

Federer won that battle from a break down in the fifth.

This, however, was never at risk of going the distance as Nadal closed to within one victory over a remarkable 12th trophy in Paris.

“The semifinals of Roland-Garros is not just another match,” Nadal said. “To have in front probably my biggest rival in my career with all the story that we shared together … that always makes the match a little bit more special and unique.”

Nadal raised his arms victorious for the 24th time against the 37-year-old. Federer raised his arms, too, to applaud his appreciation as he strolled from the court.

Roger Federer Roland-Garros 2019©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Was this adieu, Paris? The roar from a crowd standing as one certainly made it feel as much.

“Crowd support couldn't have been better,” Federer said. “Maybe one of the best ever in my entire 20-year career that I have been on tour at a slam.

“I think I surprised myself maybe how deep I got in this tournament and how well I actually was able to play throughout.

“And next year, just like with any other tournament, I don't know. We'll see what happens. But I definitely enjoyed the clay-court season and Roland-Garros, so that would help the chances, I guess, to return to the clay.”

Storm Miguel was expected to reach the North Sea by Friday evening. But Nadal had ensured a high-pressure system was again on the radar for the final on Sunday. His opponent has been warned.