Roger Federer has romped around the red clay of Roland Garros this year like a younger version of himself. He’s displayed the kind of graceful footwork, powerful forehand and deft touch around the net that has made him the greatest tennis player of all time.
However, as has been the case so many times at the French Open, his foil awaits. Like Federer, he looks as dominant as ever on clay.
Roger Federer faces Rafael Nadal in the French Open semifinals on Friday in what will be the most anticipated match between the two since the 2017 Australian Open final, which Federer won. However, on clay at Roland Garros, the numbers suggest this will be less exciting than the lead up would indicate.
During their historic rivalry, Nadal holds a 13-2 advantage over Federer in matches played on clay, including a 5-0 record at the French Open. In the five matches they’ve played at the French Open, Federer has won 3 sets to Nadal’s 15. That’s pretty grim for Team Fed.
However, if you’re looking for some positive news for Federer, the last time they played at the French Open was the 2011 final. Since then, Federer has a 7-6 record against Nadal, including five straight wins heading into this semifinal matchup.
But anyone who follows tennis knows Nadal owns the red courts at Roland Garros. From 2005-2018, he’s won a record 11 titles there, has lost only twice in 13 appearances and has an unreal 11-1 record in tiebreaks. This year, Nadal has dropped one set in five matches and is coming off a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Kei Nishikori, the No. 7 seed in the tournament. Combine those numbers with Nadal’s record against Federer on clay, specifically at the French Open, and you see how daunting a challenge Federer faces.
Federer may be the best all-around tennis player of all time, but on clay, Rafa is king and to take that crown, Federer will have to play the greatest match of his career.