PARIS — Rafael Nadal made quick work of Roger Federer in their first French Open meeting since 2011, beating his rival 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 Friday in strong wind to reach his 12th final at Roland Garros.
Nadal has never lost a semifinal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. Never lost a final, either.
And he’s never lost to Federer in Paris, improving to 6-0. Overall, Nadal leads their series 24-15. Federer had won their past five meetings, but those were all on hard courts.
It’s a whole different task to take on Nadal on clay, in general, and at the French Open, in particular, where his one victory away from a 12th championship, which would be more than any man or woman has won at any of the Grand Slam tournaments.
In Sunday’s final, the No. 2-seeded Nadal will take on either No. 1 Novak Djokovic or No. 4 Dominic Thiem.
This was the first time since 2011 the four top-seeded men were in the semifinals at Roland Garros.
Like so many times before, it was Nadal’s topspin-heavy lefty forehand, his relentless ball-chasing and his return game that gave Federer fits.
Frustrated the guy so much that the generally stoic Federer smacked a tennis ball toward the stands after getting broken to trail 2-1 in the third set.
It would soon be over.
Federer, who was playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, hadn’t lost a set through five victories over the past two weeks. With an aggressive, head-to-the-net style, he had been broken a total of only four times by those opponents.
Nadal easily exceeded that in a span of three sets across less than 2½ hours, winning 6 of 13 return games.
The 37-year-old Federer, whose 20 Grand Slam titles are a record for a man, was serenaded off the court by spectators’ chants of his first name. He raised his right arm for a quick wave as he walked away — perhaps for the final time. He missed the tournament in 2016 with a bad back, then skipped it the next two years to prepare for grass and hard courts.
He looked quite good in his return, until running into his old nemesis.
By: Howard Fendrich, AP Tennis Writer