Rafael Nadal was a player to beat in 2019, securing two Major titles and his fifth No.1 of the year ahead of Novak Djokovic. Rafa has had 58 wins this season and one of his most valuable wins came in the Roland Garros semifinals against his old rival Roger Federer.
It was his fourteenth meeting with the majors (the fifteenth was just around the corner at Wimbledon). Rafa claimed the tenth win after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 25 minutes. Nadal had lost all five of his previous matches against Federer and was keen to change that on his favorite pitch, facing 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 top 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 Rafa offered him. 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 picked up speed from the second set, with Nadal dominating in the closing stages leaving Federer far behind.
Rafa led 3-0 in the opening set, losing some ground before earning another break at 3-2 when Roger’s forehand netted. The Spaniard ended the first game on serve in the ninth game before Roger upped the ante early in the second set to take a 2-0 lead.
Federer wasted a game point and was broken in the third game after a forehand winner by Nadal.
Nadal thinks about Carlos Alcaraz
“It was a bit of a struggle with myself. I couldn’t show my best performance here.
Obviously it was hard to deal with those moments when I knew I wasn’t playing 100%. All I can say is that it was the first time I couldn’t handle the pressure. I felt the pressure to be No. 2 in this type of tournament, No.
4 in the world. It was the first time I felt that pressure and couldn’t handle it,” said Rafael Nadal. In an interview with the official ATP website, Nadal said that Alcaraz have the right people next to them and that you can play without any strain in the first few years.
“I think he [Carlos Alcaraz] has the right people next to him. I don’t have to tell him [any advice on handling pressure] anything until he asks me. I think when you’re very young and you’re going up and growing in the rankings every week, in a way things are a little bit easier because you don’t have the pressure to win every week,” Nadal said.