10:42 AM ET
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 he’s one victory from a 12th championship. That total would be more than any man or woman has won at any of the Grand Slam tournaments.
This was the first time since 2011 the four top-seeded men were in the semifinals at Roland Garros.
Like so many times before, Nadal’s topspin-heavy lefty forehand, relentless ball chasing and return game gave Federer fits. The generally stoic Federer was so frustrated that he smacked a tennis ball toward the stands after getting broken to trail 2-1 in the third set.
It was soon 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 only four times total by those opponents.
Nadal easily exceeded that in a span of three sets across less than two-plus hours, winning six 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.