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Nadal vs Federer French Open SF Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Legendary rivals meet for the 39th time with French Open final on the line

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 6 Jun 2019
  • Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer is live from Roland Garros on Friday, 7 June from 12:50pm local time/ 11:50am BST
  • Nadal leads the head-to-head 23-15, but Federer has won their last five matches
Rafael Nadal (Photo: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Legendary rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meet for the 39th time on Friday as they battle for a spot in the final of the French Open.

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It's the first meeting between Federer and Nadal since the 2017 Shanghai Masters, and the first in clay since the 2013 Rome Masters finals. This is also their first encounter at Roland Garros since Nadal scored a four-set victory in the 2011 final.

Nadal retains a dominant 23-15 lead over Federer in their head-to-head, but Federer has had the upper hand recent times, winning their last five matches, and the last seven sets against his Spanish rival.

Can Nadal halt Federer's current streak when this great rivalry returns to the clay of Roland Garros on Friday?

Nadal is continuing his quest for a record-extending 12th Roland Garros title, and after an uncertain start his clay-court season, the King of Clay has been closer to his best in Paris, dropping just one set in reaching his 12th French Open semi-final. Every time Nadal has made the semi-finals in Paris, he's gone on to win the title.

However, Nadal is an uncharacteristic 1-3 in clay court semi-finals this season, after opening his 2019 clay season with consecutive semi-final defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, casting uncertainty over his form, and chances of going all the way at Roland Garros. Nadal quelled a lot of those doubts with a strong title run at the Rome Masters, and he has been pretty much untroubled through an admittedly accommodating Roland Garros draw, beating Yannick Hanfmann, Yannick Maden, David Goffin, Juan Ignacio Londero and Kei Nishikori to stretch his current winning streak to 10 matches.

The great Spaniard has now reached the semi-finals in his last four majors, and is seeking back-to-back Grand Slam finals having finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. His other appearances this season were in Acapulco, where he lost to Nick Kyrgios in the second round, and Indian Wells, where he pulled out of a scheduled semi-final meeting with Federer because of a knee injury. That injury kept him out of action until the Monte Carlo Masters, and might have been one of the reasons for his relatively slow start on clay.

He's certainly moving very close to full speed at the moment, and he will attempt to get past great rival, Federer when they meet in a typically hugely-anticipated semi-final on Friday.

Competing at the French Open for the first time since 2015, Federer has looked very sharp on the Parisian clay, losing just one set in reaching the semi-finals. He moved through the first four rounds without dropping a set, beating Lorenzo Sonego, Oscar Otte, Casper Ruud and Leonardo Mayer, before taking down fellow Swiss, Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the quarter finals.

Federer's early draw opened up for him somewhat, with the seeded players in his section of the draw- Matteo Berrettini, Diego Schwartzman and Marco Cecchinato all falling before their projected meeting with the great Swiss- but when the big test finally arrived against Wawrinka, the 2009 champion was up to the challenge.

Wawrinka made it as difficult as he could, saving 14 of 16 break points, but Federer always looked the more likely winner, the one who kept creating chances, rather than hanging in, and eventually emerged with a fine 7-6 4-6 7-6 6-4 victory after three hours and 40 minutes. The 37-year-old won 78% of points on his first serve and was 41 from 60 at the forecourt- those two percentages will need to remain very high on Friday…

Federer is into his first Grand Slam semi-final since his 2018 Australian Open success. His Melbourne title defence in 2019 was spectacularly terminated by Stefanos Tsitsipas, who pulled off a stunning upset in the fourth round, but Federer gained some sort of revenge over Tsitsipas in Dubai, beating the Greek in the final to win his 100th career title. The Swiss then fell to Dominic Thiem in Indian Wells final, but he claimed title No. 101 in Miami, outclassing John Isner in the final.

Returning to clay for the first time since 2015, Federer made consecutive quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome, narrowly losing to Dominic Thiem in Madrid, after missing two match points, and withdrawing from a scheduled meeting with Tsitsipas in Rome due to a right leg complaint. He's looked free of injury so far in advancing to the French Open semi-finals for the first time since 2012, and he will need to be at his physical best if he is to have any chance against Nadal on Friday. 

“I'm very happy to play Rafa because if you want to do or achieve something on clay, inevitably, at some stage you will go through [him],” said Federer. “I knew that when I signed up for the clay [and] hoped it was going to happen. If I would have had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay.”

Federer has beaten Nadal in their last five meetings, including four times in 2017, and has a bit if a psychological advantage to hold on to heading into Friday’s meeting. He has won his last even sets against Nadal, and has not dropped his serve against the Spaniard in their last four matches. With a bigger racket head, and more confidence on his backhand, the Swiss found a way to neutralize, to an extent, Nadal's topspin cross-court forehand in his 2017 dominance, but crucially, none of those matches were on clay. 

“Playing Roger again in [the] semi-finals, these are the moments for which we are working on a daily basis and for which we get prepared as best we can,” said Nadal. “Beyond winning or not, we really want to be competitive and to fight in the most correct way and to enjoy that.” 
 “I have to be solid. 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”.

Nadal is a completely different beast on the clay of Roland Garros, and with the ball jumping higher, and courts generally playing slower, the 11-time champion is very much at home at this venue, and should once again be too strong Federer at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer is live from Roland Garros on Friday, 7 June from 12:50pm local time/ 11:50am BST

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Nadal vs Federer French Open SF Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Legendary rivals meet for the 39th time with French Open final on the line

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer meet for the 39th time on Friday, as they battle for a spot in the French Open final. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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