Nadal will seek 12th title at Roland Garros after defeating Federer 63, 64, 62 in the semi-finals while rain halted the Djokovic-Thiem match at one set all
With 11 French Open titles in the bag, Rafael Nadal hardly needs help when it comes to winning at Roland Garros. But on Friday, after he produced a rock-solid performance in horrendous wind to see off Roger Federer, Nadal was handed a further boost when the semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem was only midway through when it was held over until Saturday because of rain.
With an extra day to recover compared with his opponent Djokovic and Thiem were one set all with the Austrian leading 3-1 in the third Nadal will surely be even more confident. The stars, it seems, are aligning in the Spaniards favour.
Nadal was at his resilient best as he beat Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to dash the 37-year-old Federers hopes of adding a second French Open title, 10 years after his first. As he has done so often in his career, he ran down everything, forced Federer to miss and coped better with the gusting winds to claim his place in the final.
Such was his dominance that at one stage Federer found himself considering just how difficult it is to play Nadal on clay. He makes you feel uncomfortable the way he defends the court and plays on clay, Federer said. There is nobody who even plays remotely close to him. I dont even know who I need to go search for to go practice with somebody who plays like him. I was thinking that during the match. Its just amazing how he plays from deep and then is able to bounce back and forth from the baseline. Its just quite interesting.
It is a very important achievement for me, said Nadal, who is one win away from an 18th grand-slam title. Being in the final of Roland Garros again means a lot and especially coming back from not an easy situation [with] all the injuries that I had. Being able to recover the level that I had the last couple of weeks is something I am very proud of.
This was the 39th meeting between the two men, a rivalry that has produced some of the best matches in tennis history. Going into the semi-final, the 33-year-old led Federer 23-15 and though the Swiss had won their past five matches, they had not met on clay since 2013, not played at Roland Garros since 2011 and the last time Federer beat Nadal on clay was in Madrid in 2009. Having dropped only one set on the way to the semi-final after three years away, there were some who believed Federer could do it again this year but Nadal was too solid, too good.
No one likes playing in the wind and conditions were close to unplayable at times, with gusts of 50 miles an hour plus occasionally making both men look foolish but Nadal was unflustered. By contrast Federers plan went out of the window and the precision he needed to attack was impossible to achieve. There was so much wind, it was incredible, Federer said. It was just crazy. No excuses, but it was crazy. You get to a point where youre just happy to make shots and not look ridiculous. I dont know what I could have done a whole lot different. I dont think I played poorly in the wind today. Its just its tough on clay. Youve got to try to take on the half-volleys, too, all that stuff. It just adds to the equation. Hes the best clay-court player, so I can accept that. Its not a problem.