Nishikori knows that feeling. The feeling of being Nadal’s punch bag on Chatrier. The new arena can’t conceal all the old demons. How can you remind yourself that you are one of the best players in the world when the man across the net is so utterly relentless that he never lets you breathe?
“He hit very heavy, and he was serving well,” Nishikori sighed. “He made me play every point. Even to get one game, it feel like very long to get just one game. He’s playing great tennis this week."
Even Nadal, never one to blow his own trumpet, wasn’t hiding this fact. “The way I have been playing has been, being honest, very positive. I have been playing well, very solid. Winning good matches against tough opponents like today. I am happy with that,” said the Spaniard, after reaching a record-extending 12th Roland-Garros semi-final.
He tried his best to play down the idea of Federer being his opponent but knew that could never really wash. “Having Roger in front in the semi-finals is an extra thing,” he said. “It’s always a big match against him. The level of tennis that you need to play always is the highest. And I am playing well, but I need to play very well against him. So I hope to be ready to make that happen.
"We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court. So it’s another episode of this, and I’m happy for that and excited, no? It will be a special moment.”
It sure will. Someone threw the fact at him that he has lost his last five meetings with Federer and also that he has won 13 of their 15 matches on clay. Which was more significant? “We'll see that on Friday,” Nadal said. “For the time being, I can't tell you anything. Unfortunately, I can't give you any prediction.”