Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal In The French Open Semifinals, Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | June 5th, 2019, 2:44 pm

I’m not shocked we are seeing another Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, but I am shocked it’s happening in the semifinals! Sure, it’s no surprise Nadal, the King of Clay himself, would make it out to the last weekend, but Federer? I did not expect that.

The guy who hasn’t played at the French Open in four years is again waving his magic wand. He reached the quarters without dropping a set. Then he escaped a patch trouble in the third set, avoided a 2-1 deficit to turn away a depleted (I think) Stan Wawrinka in four sets yesterday.

If you step back and think about Federer at age 37 making the semifinals at his worst Slam and losing just one set en route, it does sound crazy. But when you go match-by-match, he had a joke of a draw and then, like I said, got really lucky with Stan probably not being at his best after that 5-hour marathon against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

On top of that, he benefits the most of getting two days off – remember when he asked to play that first Sunday? This assured him of an extra day before possibly playing Rafa in the semifinals. Was he thinking that far ahead? I don’t know, but it turned out to be a smart move, but will it work?

To the match.

Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal
So the answer is, it’s not going work. Sorry! Roger had a great draw, one he couldn’t have hand-picked any better. And now he gets Rafa and I don’t think it’s going to end well. At least not the match that is, for Roger.

I know Federer’s won the last five, but none of those came on clay. And Rafa’s 13-2 against Roger on clay, 5-0 at the French and it’s about to be 6-0.

Thanks to that new, bigger frame, Federer backhand is still solid but any short ball off that wing and Fed’s immediately in trouble against Nadal. And that’s pretty much the match. The slower, possibly wetter (forecast calls for rain on Friday), clay is going to hurt Federer hitting through the court. Same will be true of Rafa, but I just think the Spaniard has more power and moves better than Roger right now. He’s been popping his serve pretty good, too.

I also think Federer has to be extremely pleased getting by Wawrinka and making the French semifinals. Three months ago I don’t think he saw this kind of run happening when he announced his return. And he’ll have a look at Nadal without any real expectations or urgency. And few, if any, are thinking an upset could happen. So I think this meeting will be the first where Roger just goes in and lets it fly. So who knows, maybe when he does, then things start happening.

Obviously, Federer will want to avoid long rallies and instead attack, especially off Rafa’s second serve. And then be mindful of court position and error count.

Roger’s a smart guy, he knows what it takes. But I just think Rafa’s going to get Roger on the run and that’s going to be a problem.

That all said, I’m not sold Rafa is at the peak of his powers. He’s also had a nice draw and after losing 5 straight to Fed, there has to be some tension, some doubt. Plus all the pressure will be on him, not Roger. He’s the King of Clay. He’s 91-2 at Roland Garros. He’s piled up all these ridiculous clay stats. He can’t possibly lose to a guy who is about to turn 38?

By the end, I just think Rafa’s too strong here. Roger will be happy making the semis and that will put him in good shape for grass which is his best surface. Meanwhile, Rafa keeps racking up records on his surface…
The pick: Rafael Nadal in 3

As for the matches tomorrow, the rain really doesn’t matter much because I think Novak Djokovic beats Alexander Zverev, maybe in four sets. Djokovic has been a wrecking ball all event while Zverev has been hanging on for dear life it seems. Tomorrow, that ball hits him.

And I’ll lean to Dominic Thiem to KO Karen Khachanov in four sets. I don’t think Khachanov moves well enough or has that raw Delpo-like power. And I expect Thiem to wear him down, take advantage of his foot speed and and just out-clay him.

What’s great is, with virtually all the top guys getting through, it’s hard to see a bad final on Sunday!

Before then, Tennis Channel and NBC will share coverage tomorrow.

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39 Comments for Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal In The French Open Semifinals, Who’s The Pick?

FedExpress Says:

Sean also said that Federer would lose to the likes of Schwartzman and wont reach the Quarters, let alone the semis.

Federer in 4.

Giles Says:

Delusional FE. ROFL

Berghain Says:

I don’t think fed will win. Yet he does have a chance. Bookie odds are to sweet. 500 bucks on fed will net you close to 3200.

gorge Says:

This site these days is a combination of group-think and gamblers’ fallacy. There is absNolutely no rNeason for anyone to think Fed will lose in 3, when Goffin took a set off Nadal a few days ago. Nor is Nadal’s incredible record at RG relevant to right now, when he’s clearly not the same player.

Ricky says that Fed Nhas yet to beat anyone in the top 14, but he has played very tough competition in ThiemN, Coric, and Stan, all of whom played great against him. Imo Thiem played better against Fed than he did in beating Nadal. Yet Fed held two match points and was inches from winning. Rafa has not defeated tougher competition except for Djokovic, who was very sub-par and still managed to take a set.

Fedalovic makes some very important points that most people are overlooking. With the new racquet, Fed is a different player, even on clay. He will threaten to break Rafa’s serve in many if not most games and this time he will be much better than 2 of 18 on BP conversions. His BH will be as much a weapon as a liability. And he will hold comfortably in most of his own service games. Add in the fact that all the pressure is on Nadal, and that adds up to a convincing victory for Roger. Federer in 3, at most 4 sets, for the win.

gorge Says:


Dave Says:

I may eat my words for saying this. But I really can’t see how Federer won’t win a set at some point in the match. I think Nadal will win in 4.

jatin Says:

I have no idea why experts and community are giving Fed little to no chance against Rafa.
There is no way Fed is not taking a set here. He did it in Rafa’s peak on clay and made those matches hugely competitive (06,07 and 11) and now Rafa is just not the same anymore. He is slower, Lost 3 straight clay tournaments before winning Rome and playing a lot of short balls on court.

Whereas its opposite for Fed, He is playing the most aggressive tennis he has ever played on clay. He troubled Rafa in their last 5 matches with the same technique even in the slower courts.
When you think about it and put everything in perspective, then this match is going to be super competitive. In most of their last encounters on French it was always Rafa who had a winning streak over fed which made the match even more Mental for Fed. But this time its the opposite. Fed’s serve alone won’t allow Rafa to blow him off the court.

I don’t know if Fed’s game is enough to take down the King of Clay but giving him no chance to even take a set is ridiculous.
Fed knows this is his last chance to take down Rafa on his turf and believe me he is going to come out pressure free and freely swinging.

Rafa is still a HUGE favourite but please don’t underestimate Fed.

Very excited for the Match.

Ronn Says:

Well, never that I’don’t be seeing a Roger-Rafael match but here we are. I agree that Roger had a laughable draw but so did Rada and my boy Djoko at this point.If I follow common sense I would say Rafael wins in 3 easy sets but there’should something in the air this year and my intuition tells me Rafael doesn’t lift the trophy this year. Either Federer beats him and then wins it all or Djoko or Thiem takes him out in the finals. Whoever wins among Thiem, Djoko, and Roger is a toss up as far as I’m concerned. Of course I’d love to see Djoko win it all but getting past Zverev, Thiem, and then Rafael will be a big challenge. Yes, he’said been playing very well but he’ll have to go to a higher gear if he wants that trophy. He can’t afford to get into a long, tight match with Zverev because he’ll have nothing left when he plays Thiem. So he needs to finish Zverev early and hope that somehow Karen brings it all to the table and forces Thiem into a long, 4+ hour match. Nobody’s gonna agree with me but I think Djoko will beat Rafael if they both make it to the final. It’seems just that I’m nit even sure either one of them will make it there. If Roger plays loosely and rattles Rafael early he CAN win. And if he beats Rafael his confidence will skyrocket and he’ll easily beat Zverev or Thiem in the final. Beating Djoko with Djoko serving this well would be very hard and the heavier conditions would favor Djoko. I just don’t see Rafael winning this thing. Forget Rome. I really think Djoko just gave away that match so he could have the psychological edge if he meets Rafael in the FO final. You know, kinda like hitting top form and then coming in as the “underdog” when in fact he really isn’t? Djoko has played some extremely tight matches against Rafael that he arguably should have won, and he has beaten Rafael at the FO in straight sets so he’should the only guy out there that can handle the pressure against Rafael in a tight match AND beat him. Thiem cracked under the Rafael pressure last year and Roger has always cracked.Anyway, sorry for talking in circles and rattling on and on. It’seems just that my intuition tells me that Rafael doesn’t win it this year and it’ll be a toss up between Thiem, my boy, and Dominic.

skeezer Says:

^quite the contrar, your most intelligent post ever.

mike Says:

let’s think about the way Fed improved his backhand approach against Nadal in Australia the last 5 times they met… and dream.

If not, I’d love to buy Rafa… so he loses in three sets and I make ton of money with my friends bookmakers

Madmax Says:

Roger will freestyle and will just have a helluva day out there on centre court. He will be loving it. No one expected it. Here he is.

I expect Roger to come out firing on all cylinders, everything he has got – first set Roger

After that, it will be Rafa all the way. Roger has absolutely nothing to lose. He will give it his all in the first set then will battle as far as he can. He will be happy for the points on clay. Absolutely.

Proud of Roger.


Wog Boy Says:

Toronto Raptors!!

skeezer Says:

You guys are sooo lucky Durant and Clay are injured, otherwise the broom would be out and you know it. Surprise you would cheering against them, bein Bogs is your homey.;)

Michael Says:

It takes a great leap of faith to conjure up a fantastic notion that Roger (at almost 38 now) bests Rafa on Clay and that too plausibly in his most favourite turf where he has been invincibile over the years and dominated the circuit like no other: an unparalleled achievement which fittingly has earned him accolades to be savourly crowned as “King of Clay”. What Roger can’t do in his prime, can he accomplish it approaching 38 ? Hope never dies and fans of Roger have to believe that he can achieve the impossible taking leaf out of Australian open win. The silver lining for Roger is that he can afford to cut loose while putting pressure on Rafa who is ostensibly the huge favourite going into this match. Nevertheless, a Roger-Rafa tussle are always treasured and cherished by both the fans irrespective of outcome.The electric atmosphere on Court would be exhilarating and nerve shattering and trust the rain doesn’t play spoilsport.

Michael Says:

Strange things have happened in Tennis and one cannot rule out an upset even if it appears improbable given Nadal’s unquestionable supremacy. Roger, especially after his last six continuous wins believes he can get the better of Rafa and this belief will propel him to go all guns blazing on the Court. Just couldn’t wait !!!

FedExpress Says:

Zverev had multiple chances to break. but couldnt.

FedExpress Says:

Zvereb was up in every service game of Nole

and then 0-30/30-40

Cant breal though

Federer says hello. Normally Nole will break and Zverev will fall apart

Remind me of the first from Delpo Nadal last year. Delpo was the better player.

FedExpress Says:

Zverev had a chance to serve put the set. Served like a true mug and got broken back.

Chance gone?

Daniel Says:

Zverev the first to take 5 games in a set vs Novak this year. Served for the set but Djoko awakens. Was facing BPs and several games with a slow start. Now Zverev serve under pressure 5-6

FedExpress Says:

What a choke by Zverev. Bended over.

Serving stay in the set. Saved 2 SPs then a DjokoSmash and then DF on SP.

Go home Zverev. From serving for the set to not winning a game.

skeezer Says:

Going as predicted. The court is playing very heavy, advantage Djoker. Because of this, Z serve is negated and off the ground he cannot hit through Djoked. Should go quickly now…

skeezer Says:

Theim will be a different story,….

Daniel Says:

I kind of want today to go fast as possible and in straights for both Djoko and Thiem. They will have to play again tomorrow, second match, with risk of rain and postponed to finish on Saturday, potentally playng 4 staright days for the finalist.

Don’t want any of them to be depleted for final, so hope they both win in less than 2 hours today, as their match tomorrow should be tougher for both and the real test. Today are just fillers.

Zverev is not there mentally yet, hence losing 6 straight games after serving for set 1 and now facing BP to lose another game. Kachanov also can’t hurt Thiem on clay.

FedExpress Says:

What kind of bad joke was that by Zverev? 3 DFs IN A ROW

Daniel Says:


I also got a gut feeling Nadal doesn’t win this year. Don’t know if it is the not nailing 12 in MC and Barca numerology or whatever…

But also feels the winner comes from Djoko x Thiem match.

Daniel Says:

Thiem about to serve for the match, crushing Kachanov. He is hitting another gear this last 2 rounds.

Djoko 1 set away, as he serves first eventually Zverev will crack again. Looks like both will go in straights making top 4 seeds in a Slam semis since don’t know how long ago.

skeezer Says:

Gotta say its pretty amazing or….maybe should be expected? A decade has went by and we still have the top 3/4 players in the world playing for a spot in the final of yet another Slam.

Daniel Says:

Djoko a break up third set.

Will reach semis without losing a set, although if he starts versus Thiem the way he started today he will definitely lose a set.

Daniel Says:

Schedule for tomorrow:
Fedal 12:50h local time on Chatrier, followed by Djoko x Thiem.

45% chance of rain at 1 pm and than it decreases during afternoon. Maybe start of Fedal can be delayed a bit but seems they can play both matches tomorrow until 9 pm. Unless, both are 5 set epics.

FedExpress Says:

Three players with 15 GS or more and Thiem with zero into the semis.

Thiem has one of the toughest tasks in the history of tennis.

Salim Says:

I don’t know why you guys count federer out, Well for me am sure Roger Will win in four sets,

Madmax Says:


And why not indeed? Just why not? I have had a change of heart.

Federer all the way. In 4 sets. Federer will do it. Yes. Thanks Salim.

This would be my dream.

The reality? Who knows.

Federer always begin strong and he can absolutely rip loose as hell with that racquet. I mean to say, just go for it, swing freely and hopefully the clay will have fixed for tomorrow, and sun will shine all night, and he will play as if on a hard court.

Roger. King of the hard court. King of grass. Prince of Clay.


SG1 Says:

Going with Rafa in 5 sets

SG1 Says:

Thinking that the winner of the Djokovic-Thiem match will win the tournament. Never a good idea to count out Rafa but I agree with Ronn. I have the same feeling that Rafa doesn’t pick up the FO trophy this year.

Ronn Says:

Well my boy Djoko (and Dominic, for that matter) did what he had to do and that is get rid of Zverev as quickly as possible so he’ll be rested for the Thiem match.This is going to be an all out war and maybe the match of the tournament as Dominic is hitting top form at just the right time and Djoko has also peaked at the right time. I think this match comes down to how many BP opportunities Djoko can get and convert and how well Djoko serves (which has been solid up to this point). On the other side that BH of Thiem’s is gonna decide how deadly Dominic is gonna be in this match. If he’s able to hit that BH hard and deep and drive Djoko back, he’s gonna create all kinds of havoc and he’ll be controlling the points and putting Djoko on the defensive. That’s just how I see it. If the conditions are slow as they have been he should get a lot of BP opportunities but it comes to little if he’s not serving well. For Thiem, it’s simple: Serve well and control the BPS and swing away hard and deep with the BHs. This should be a really great match. I just hope my boy’s up for the occasion.

Van Persie Says:

Interresting day tomorrow, hopefully it will not be spoiled by the weather.
Rafa and Nole in the final.
Rafa to win in 4 and Nole in 3

j-kath Says:

Skeezer @ 10.44pm

Agree – I still have the same belief in the 3/4 top players – and celebrate their presence in the closing stages of major finals (Grand Slam) – most of the youthful players fail to commit to the stern demands of training etc. they believe talent alone is sufficient to carry them thru.

John Says:

Keep in mind that Federer has only beaten Rafa on clay 4 times in their history together and has NEVER beaten Rafa at the French Open. Besides Rafa is a BEAST!!!!

chrisford1 Says:

FedExpress Says:
Three players with 15 GS or more and Thiem with zero into the semis.

Thiem has one of the toughest tasks in the history of tennis.

One way to look at it. The other is 10 years from now they may review this semis quartet as 4 players, each who ended up with a pile of trophies. All sports players start in Dominic’s position – you’re new, and the oldsters have far more accomplishments. Hope he doesn’t beat Djokovic this year, and Novak gets the trophy because I’d like to see him get another Grand Slam. And a double career Grand Slam.
If not Novak, then Federer, as 80% of fans are hoping. Then my druthers go to Dominic. Last person I want to see win is Nadal. Win somewhere else, Rafa, you are becoming a one-trick pony.
Ye, Oh Lord of Dirt, Raja of Roland Garros – you’ve only won 2 Slams off clay since 2011, both at the USO.

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