Nadal braces for 'trouble' in Federer showdown
PARIS, France – Rafael Nadal rekindles tennis' greatest rivalry when he faces Roger Federer in the Roland Garros semifinals on Friday, June 7, admitting his status as overwhelming favorite ignores the "trouble" he could face from the rejuvenated Swiss.
Defending champion Nadal is chasing a 12th title on the crushed red brick of Paris where he has lost just twice in 93 matches.
Five of those wins have come against Federer, including 4 finals.
Federer, the champion in 2009, is playing the French Open for the first time in 4 years.
Furthermore, the 37-year-old has only beaten Nadal twice on clay, with his most recent win coming 10 years ago at altitude in Madrid.
"I expect that he's going to play aggressive, changing rhythms, go to the net," said 33-year-old Nadal.
"That's my feeling because he's playing well and he has the tennis to make that happen. I have to be solid.
"I have to hit the ball strong enough to not allow him to do things from good positions.
"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."
The second-seeded Spaniard leads their head-to-head 23-15 with a 13-2 stranglehold on clay.
At Roland Garros, Nadal won a 2005 semifinal and the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011 finals against a player he first encountered 15 years ago.
'Nadal forehand vs Federer backhand'
Nadal has been in impressive form as he chases an 18th major.
He has dropped just one set so far in making his 12th Roland Garros semifinal and 31st at the majors.
Nadal has never lost in the semifinals in Paris.
Two-time French Open champion Jim Courier says Nadal is the "huge" favorite but there is hope for Federer who is chasing a 21st major.
"He needs to stop Nadal's forehand with his backhand but he has never been able to do that before on this surface," said Courier, who believes that Federer winning their last 5 matches could help.
"Nadal is a huge favorite but Roger has found a solution.
"He will be curious to see if that solution can translate from hard court."
Nadal's two losses in Paris came against Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals.
Federer is not giving up hope that he can be the third. (READ: Federer dreaming of toppling Nadal: 'There's always a chance')
"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.
"That's exactly what everybody believes by facing Rafa. They know it's going to be tough. But you just never know. He might have a problem. He might be sick. You never know.
"You might be playing great or for some reason he's struggling. Maybe there's incredible wind, 10 rain delays. You just don't know. That's why you need to put yourself in that position."
Ten years ago Soderling hit winner after winner as the unheralded Swede ended Nadal's 31-match win streak at the tournament.
"I think to beat him on clay is challenging. But to beat him in 5 sets on clay is even more difficult," said Soderling who crushed 63 winners in that landmark win.
"You have to play extremely well. To beat him on clay, the only chance for any player is to be really aggressive.
"Take some risks. Many, many players, even good players, top players... you can almost see that they don't really believe 100 per cent that they can win." – Rappler.com