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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meet for the 39th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.

Preview: Nadal & Federer Face Off In Roland Garros SFs

Winner to play Djokovic or Thiem on Sunday

Second seed Rafael Nadal and third seed Roger Federer will renew their treasured rivalry in semi-final action on Friday at Roland Garros. The winner will face top seed Novak Djokovic or fourth seed Dominic Thiem in the championship match.

“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.”

Nadal leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Federer 23-15, but Federer has won their past five matches. The Spaniard leads their series on clay 13-2 and has won their past four meetings on the surface, but they haven’t played on it since the 2013 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final. Nadal has won all five of their previous clashes at this event, prevailing in the 2005 semi-finals and championship matches in 2006-2008 and 2011.

Although Federer hasn’t beaten Nadal on clay since the 2009 Mutua Madrid Open final, he believes he can reverse the trend.

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"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] he might have a problem. He might be sick. You might be playing great or for some reason he's struggling. Maybe there's incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don't know. That's why you need to put yourself in that position.”

Competing in the second major of the year for the first time since 2015, Federer has dropped just one set in reaching the semi-finals. The 2009 champion holds a 70-16 career record at this event and has reached at least the semi-finals in eight of his 12 most recent appearances. But despite his impressive credentials, Federer will arrive on Court Philippe-Chatrier as the on-paper underdog against Nadal and that could aid him in swinging freely.

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Nadal has put himself in position to win a 12th title at this event. The two-time defending champion has also only dropped one set this fortnight, but his scorelines throughout the tournament have been even more dominant than Federer’s. Nadal holds a staggering 91-2 record in Paris and has reached at least the semi-finals in 12 of 15 career appearances.

But while the Spaniard is highly familiar with the business end of this tournament, he views Friday’s match as one of the most important of his career.

“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.”

Typical to Nadal’s character, he shunned suggestions that he’s the favourite to win. He pointed out that he hasn’t beaten the Swiss star since the 2014 Australian Open and said that Federer remains one of the most dangerous clay-court players on tour.

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“He came back on clay because he's a player who is comprehensive, who plays well on all surfaces. And he has good chances of winning on clay,” said Nadal. He's coming back because he wants to do so. If he feels in good shape physically, he should not leave out a main part of the season.

“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.”


Court Philippe Chatrier start 12:50pm
[3] Roger Federer vs [2] Rafael Nadal
followed by
[1] Novak Djokovic vs [4] Dominic Thiem

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