Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both won their quarterfinal matches at Roland Garros on Tuesday to set up a block buster semifinal against each other on Friday. Second seed Nadal beat seventh seed Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 while third seed Federer overcame good friend Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in a close match. Johanna Konta advanced to the semifinals with a straight set win over seventh seed and 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4 while Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova reached the semifinals with a battling 7-6(1), 7-5 win over 31st seed Petra Martic.
Federer took a 22-3 head to head record into his all Swiss matchup with Wawrinka who had beaten him once previously at Paris on his way to the French Open title in 2015. Wawrinka was coming off a five hour marathon match against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round and needed a good start. Though he competed well saving quite a few breakpoints with some big serving and ground strokes, it was Federer who took the opening set in a tiebreaker. In the second set Wawrinka managed to break the Federer serve and leveled the match.
The third set proved to be a rollercoaster and crucial to the outcome. Wawrinka went up an early break for 4-2 but Federer broke back and evened it at 4-4. The 20 Slam champion even had two set points when leading 5-4 which were nullified. At 5-5, Wawrinka had two breakpoints that could have given him the chance to serve for the third set. Wawrinka hesitated slightly playing a bit passive and Federer took advantage holding serve and then it went down to another tie breaker. Federer came up with a terrific backhand volley at full stretch to get the mini break lead for 2-0. He went on to take the tiebreak for a two sets to one lead. The fourth set was interrupted by rain and lightning forecast at 3-3. After resumption, Wawrinka dropped serve at 4-4. Federer got a little nervous while serving for the match hitting two double faults and Wawrinka got the opportunity to get back on serve. Federer kept the pressure charging the net and came away with the four set win in three hours and 35 minutes.
Federer later said that he had exceeded his expectations. “After missing the French for so many years it’s a great feeling. I have the match with Rafa, and I’m clearly excited. For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches here for me to win to get there. That’s why I’m very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he’s that strong and he will be there.”
Nadal made a quick start against the Japanese seventh seed who made a slow start making more errors than usual and the Spaniard went ahead 3-0 and had chances to go up 4-0. Nishikori fought hard to hold for 1-3 but Nadal broke again and clinched the set 6-1. In the second set, Nadal broke in the opening game but Nishikori struck back immediately. Nadal broke for the second time and then held for 3-1. Again the defending champion closed out the set at 6-1 and broke early in the third set. Play was halted for an hour with the score at 4-2 and on resumption, Nadal kept his focus to wrap up the straight set win in an hour and 51 minutes. The 11 time champion would be pleased with some excellent play. A brilliant low drop shot and a leaping acrobatic forehand smash with his back to the net were the pick of some good quality shots from Nadal.
Nadal was happy with his level of play. “The way I have been playing has been, being honest, very positive. I have been playing well, very solid. Winning good matches against tough opponents like today. I am happy with that. Having Roger in front in the semi-finals is an extra thing. It’s always a big match against him. The level of tennis that you need to play always is the highest. And I am playing well, but I need to play very well against him. So I hope to be ready to make that happen.”
Rising star Vondrousova beat Croatian 31st seed Petra Martic 7-6 (7/1), 7-5 to become the first teenager to enter the semifinals since 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko. Martic had won all four of their previous meetings but it was Vondrousova who fought back from 3-5 down in first set and saved three set points before winning the opener in a tiebreak. The Czech left hander rushed to a 5-2 lead but then got nervous missing a few match points but soon settled to take the final two games for the win. She will play Konta who became the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1983 to reach the semifinals when she defeated Stephens 6-1, 6-4. Konta had never won a match at the French Open in four previous visits to the clay major but this year has seen a change in approach which has helped her.
The French Federation also had a presentation to honor recently retired Spanish player David Ferrer. Former World No.3 Ferrer had reached the final in 2013 losing to Nadal. He finished his career after playing his final match at the Madrid Masters event against Alexander Zverev a couple of weeks before Roland Garros.