The dream French Open semifinal is set for Friday between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer after the two rivals won their quarterfinals matches on Tuesday.
Nadal, as expected by most, blew out a weary Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 on Chatrier. About the only thing that slowed Rafa’s assault against Nishikori, who was playing a third straight day, was a quick thunder-storm that halted play with Nadal up 4-2 in the third.
After an hour, play resumed and Nadal finished off Nishikori for an 11th time in 13 tries. And it put Nadal into his 12th Roland Garros semifinal and earned him his 21st straight win on these courts.
“Today has been a positive victory against Kei,” said Nadal. “I did the things well, what I had to do, I think. I think the ball is flying well, and that’s it. I have been improving during the whole clay-court season. Every tournament will be more. And now is the moment to play at the highest level, and we hope to be able to make that happen.”
Nishikori admitted afterward that his back-to-back 5-set wins over Laslo Djere and Benoit Paire caught up to him.
“I try to put 100*% on the court even though my tank was very low today,” said Nishikori. “I was frustrated too much with my tennis today… Maybe if I could been a little more positive today, maybe I had a little more chance, but I think I learned many things from this week. [It was a] very good tournament this week.”
While Rafa was routing Nishikori, Federer was on Lenglen and fully embroiled in his first real test of the tournament against his good buddy Stan Wawrinka.
Federer led Wawrinka 22-3 but Stan took Federer down in 2015 on Lenglen and all three of his wins came on the clay. So there was cause for concern.
Today, though, Federer was the sharper of the two earlier and despite his issues on break points just got the better of Stan who struggled early with his form.
Wawrinka came back in the second behind his brand of bully ball and an early break. Stan looked to have momentum on his side as he took a break lead in the third but Federer managed to get it back and then pulled out a pivotal break.
It was wasn’t the best of tennis, but Federer was deft with his dropshots and volleys, and the versatility Federer showed – even badly shanking an overhead late in the match – kept Wawrinka off balance.
As was the case on Chatrier, play was stopped for an hour at 3-all. The one hour break after 3+ hours of tennis, could prove the difference. It seemed to help Federer.
Once they resumed, Federer won three of the next four games to close it out 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in 3 hours, 35 minutes.
“I’m very happy, number one, to be back in another semifinals of a Grand Slam. It hasn’t happened in the past year or so. I had some tough losses in fourth rounds or quarters. So from that standpoint, I exceeded my expectations here,” Federer said. “After missing the French for so many years, it’s nice to be back in the semis, so that’s a great feeling.”
Federer finished just 2/18 on break chances with 53 winners to 49 unforced. Wawrinka was 2/5 on his break chances but had 54 winners to 61 unforced.
“Only a few points could have changed a little bit the match, but I think I was playing well in those moments. He was a bit more aggressive,” Wawrinka said. “This court was quite fast and slippery. It was important to be aggressive, to be inside the court, and he did that better than me.
“He was playing the way I expect him to play against me and on clay court,” he added. “There is no surprise anymore in what we are doing. It’s just about who’s going to play the best in those important points, and he did that better than me today.”
So it will be Nadal v Federer on Friday. Nadal of course leads 23-15 and more importantly 13-2 on clay, 5-0 at the French Open. Federer, though, has won the last five and the last time Rafa won was back in the 2015 Australian Open semifinals.
“With Rafa, particularly on clay, you have to be aware of his strengths, what he brings to the table. And on top of it, because he’s a left-hander, it just changes everything,” Federer said.
“I have two days, which I guess is a good thing. It’s better than one. It’s better than none. So from that standpoint, I get more left-handed practice, more serves and all that stuff.
“Because I guess I have played five guys now that are righties, so for me it’s a complete switch-around. Just the way the ball goes out of your strings with the different spins, it’s just different. So you have to get used to that quickly. Don’t have much time to waste.
“That’s why you have to be fearless to some extent to take on the spinny balls, the sliding balls, the kicking balls, and that’s what I will do on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Rafa sounds ready for title number 12 this Sunday.
“The way that I have been playing has been very positive,” said Nadal. “I have been playing well, very solid. Winning good matches against tough opponents, like today. I am happy with that. Of course, after having Roger in front in the semi-finals is an extra thing. We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court, facing each other. So [it’ll] be another episode, and [I’m] happy for that and excited. It will be [a] special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.”
Who will be in the other semifinal? We should find out on Wednesday, weather permitting.
Novak Djokovic will carry a 25-match Slam win streak into his match against Alexander Zverev. Dominic Theim will try to return to a fourth French semifinal against 23-year-old Karen Khachanov who is making his Major quarterfinal debut. Both Zverev and Khachanov are trying to reach their first Slam semifinal.
WEDNESDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe CHATRIER Début à 14h00
Simona HALEP (ROU)  contre Amanda ANISIMOVA (USA)
Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB)  contre Alexander ZVEREV (GER) 
Court Suzanne LENGLEN Début à 14h00
Madison KEYS (USA) contre Ashleigh BARTY (AUS) 
Dominic THIEM (AUT) contre Karen KHACHANOV (RUS) 
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