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French Open: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer look ahead to their semi-final

Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the 2011 final
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the 2011 final

Recent form will vie with historic dominance when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer renew their rivalry in the French Open semi-finals on Friday.

Nadal has won 23 of their 38 previous matches including all five at Roland Garros and 13 of 15 on clay, but Federer has come out on top in their most recent five meetings, all on hard courts.

Having not beaten his great rival at a grand slam since Wimbledon 2007, Federer claimed a hugely important victory over five sets in the Australian Open final in 2017 to shift the dynamics of their match-up once again.

Now 37, Federer must hope the confidence from those wins and his impressive return to clay can allow him to find the answer to a riddle he has spent most of his career trying to solve.


Friday's Singles Schedule

Philippe-Chatrier (1150am)

  • Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal
  • Novak Djokovic v Dominic Thiem

Suzanne-Lenglen (1000am)

  • Ashleigh Barty v Amanda Anisimova

Court Simonne Mathieu (1000am)

  • Jo Konta v Marketa Vondrousova

"It's never natural against any lefty," said Federer. "It's just everything changes. We play 80 per cent of the time against (right-handed players). And when we play a lefty, it's just a different match. It's an interesting match.

"I used to hate it. Now I love it, because it's a huge challenge against those guys, and he's the best one that I ever faced. I'm looking forward to the test."

Federer survived a real examination of his clay-court game in his quarter-final against good friend Stan Wawrinka, dropping his first set of the tournament but coming through in four.

He spent a lot of time at the net, as he has all tournament, and Nadal does not expect any surprises from his old foe.

"I really expect that he's going to play aggressive, changing rhythms, going to the net," said the Spaniard. "That's my feeling, that he's going to try to play that way, because he's playing well and he has the tennis to make that happen.

"I have to be solid. I have to hit the ball enough strong to not allow him to do the things from good positions. I need to let him play from difficult positions, so from there he's going to have less chances to go to the net or to play his aggressive game.

"If I am able to play good tennis and play well with my forehand and backhand, I hope to put him in trouble. If not, I will be in trouble."

It would be one of the biggest achievements of Federer's career if he could beat Nadal and reach a first final here since 2011 after four years away from the Paris clay.

Federer has made the final here five times, losing four times to Nadal and winning his only title in 2009 with victory over the Spaniard's conqueror Robin Soderling.

The closest he came to defeat that year was in the fourth round when, following Nadal's shock defeat, he trailed his close friend Tommy Haas by two sets to love before recovering to win in five.

Haas is now competing in the veteran's event and believes his former rival is playing better than ever.

"He's very sharp, moving really well," said the German. "That's always the key for him, especially on clay. I think he's already very satisfied with coming back and deciding to play the clay-court season, he's getting a lot of matches under his belt.

"It's truly amazing what he's doing and if he's healthy and feeling really well then watch out, he can be really dangerous.

"He will go in there with nothing to lose. I think Rafa will have most of the pressure on him. If Roger comes out firing, getting a good start and possibly winning the first set, I think we'll all be glued to the TV to see the ending to that one.

"I think the main goal anyway will be to win Wimbledon and with that kind of process and matches in his belt will help him as well. We're still talking French Open, he's still alive so we'll see what happens."

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Most Read Football

A complete list of every completed summer 2019 transfer window deal1

Transfer Window: Done Deals

Get all the complete signings in the summer 2019 football transfer window from the Premier League, Sky Bet EFL and Europe.

The latest from the back pages2

Paper Talk: Maguire to cost £100m

Manchester United may give up on Harry Maguire because of a £100m price tag, while Inter are sniffing around Old Trafford in a bid to secure a deal for Romelu Lukaku.

The Europa League trophy3

Cardiff Met set for Europa adventure

Cardiff Metropolitan University players will look to pass an altogether different test when they become the first British student-only team to play in European competition.

Get all the football gossip from the National Papers4

Paper Talk: PSG Pogba swap?

PSG have approached Manchester United about the possibility of directly swapping Neymar for Paul Pogba according to one of Tuesday's UK newspapers.

Check out today's Paper Talk5

Paper Talk: Griez lightning

Barcelona are set to complete the £107m signing of Antoine Griezmann after his release clause kicks in on July 1 according to today's papers.

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