Rafael Nadal recalls: 'Playing against Roger Federer again felt great'

‘Playing against Roger Federer again felt great’

Rafael Nadal was a player to beat in 2019, securing two Major titles and his fifth year-end number. 1 honor ahead of Novak Djokovic. Rafa has racked up 58 wins this season and one of the most popular was the Roland Garros semi-final against his old rival Roger Federer.

It was their 14th major game (the 15th was just around the corner at Wimbledon). Rafa claimed the tenth victory after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 25 minutes. Nadal had lost the last five matches to Federer and was keen to change that on his favorite pitch as he faced Roger for the first time since the 2011 final in Paris.

Rafa reached his 12th Roland Garros final after recording 33 winners and 19 unforced errors. He had four break chances and only got broken twice to increase the pressure on the other side. It took Roger much more than that to challenge the greatest clay-court player in his first semi-final in Paris since 2012.

He fired 25 winners and 34 errors, losing serve six times out of 16 chances offered to Rafa. The Spaniard controlled the scoreboard, defended superbly and found open field from challenging positions to keep the Swiss out of their comfort zone.

Conditions were tough and windy, especially in the first set, and both struggled to find their rhythm and follow their shots. Things improved from set number two and Nadal gained the upper hand in the closing stages to leave Federer far behind.

Rafa took an instant 3-0 lead in the opener and lost some ground before earning another break at 3-2 when Roger’s forehand netted. The Spaniard finished the first set with a hold in game nine before Roger upped the ante early in the second set to take a 2-0 lead.

Federer wasted a game point and got broken in game three after Nadal’s forehand winner.

Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in straight sets in the 2019 Roland Garros semifinals.

The Spaniard held after Deuce in game eight to stay on the positive side.

Rafa broke Roger 40-0 down in the next, taking five straight points and earning the crucial break with a volley winner that proved to be the defining moment of the encounter. Nadal held at love in game ten and pulled two sets on serve after an hour and 45 minutes, determined to get the job done in the third.

Federer was out of tank, unable to end Nadal’s streak and finding a way to enforce his shots and change the course of the game. Nadal broke in games three and five, sealing the deal with a hold at 5-2 for another final in his kingdom.

“Playing against Roger Federer for the first time since 2011 at Roland Garros felt great, although I never felt compelled to win. Before the match, I felt confident that I was playing well and felt ready for the clash, as I confidently stepped onto the pitch.

Of course, when someone is confident in their abilities, the pressure eases. Still, it was a very windy day which complicated the match for both of us. To beat Federer you have to reach your maximum and that doesn’t change,” said Rafael Nadal.

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