PARIS – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play the 39th meeting of their historic rivalry in the French Open semi-finals on Friday, with the Swiss great looking to finally beat the 11-time champion for the first time at Roland Garros.
The prize for victory will be a final against either Novak Djokovic, looking to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once for the second time, or last year's runner-up Dominic Thiem.
It is the first time the top four seeds have all made the semis in Paris since Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray in 2011.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at the men's semi-finals:
Roger Federer (SUI x3) v Rafael Nadal (ESP x2)
Nadal leads head-to-head 23-15
- Federer has already surpassed expectations by reaching the semi-finals in his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, but faces a daunting task against Nadal if he is to reach the final.
Nadal leads the pair's head-to-head on clay 13-2, holds a 91-2 winning record at Roland Garros and has won all five of his French Open matches against Federer.
But Federer is on a five-match winning streak against his old rival, and will be confident after dispatching an in-form Stan Wawrinka in the quarters.
“Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance,” said Federer.
The 33-year-old Nadal is also closing in on Federer's record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles, knowing victory in Sunday's final would draw him within two of the Swiss.
But 2009 champion Federer is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 37, and is looking to become the oldest man to reach a major final since Ken Rosewall at the 1974 US Open.
“If I am able to play good tennis and play well with my forehand and backhand, I hope to put him in trouble. If not, I will be in trouble,” said Nadal.
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) v Dominic Thiem (AUT x4)
Djokovic leads head-to-head 6-2
- World number one Djokovic is now potentially only two wins from becoming just the second man in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously twice, but will face a formidable task against Thiem.
The Austrian fourth seed will be playing his fourth straight semi-final at Roland Garros and reached the final last year, only to lose to Nadal.
“I think every match I got better and better,” said Thiem, who heads into the match following back-to-back straight-sets wins over Gael Monfils and Karen Khachanov.
“From the third round on, it got a lot better. And for sure the match against Gael and also today was very good. I'm happy with the way I'm playing.”
Djokovic has sailed into his ninth French Open semi-final and 35th at the majors in total without dropping a set.
“Dominic is deservedly where he is, one of the top four guys, especially on clay. That's where he's playing his best tennis,” said the 2016 champion.
The Serbian leads their head-to-head 6-2, although both of Thiem's wins have come on clay - including a straight-sets success in the 2017 French Open quarter-finals when Djokovic was the defending champion.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)