How Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in 3 sets at the French Open

Nadal will play for his 12th title at Roland Garros after defeating his long-time rival, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
How Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in 3 sets at the French Open

Rafael Nadal advances to the final.

Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, on a cool and windy Friday to reach his final 12th French Open.

It was the 39th career meeting of its rivals, but it was the first at Roland Garros since 2011. Federer had won his last five games, but he has never beaten Nadal at the French Open in six attempts.

No wonder: Nadal, 33, is an 11-time French Open champion and the best clay-court player in history. Federer, 37, is not so bad on earth either, as he showed when he reached the semifinals despite playing at Roland Garros in four years.

He retired from the 2016 French Open before he started due to injury and skipped the clay season completely the last three years to preserve his body and prepare for his favorite surface: the grass.

"I have not played clay for three years, so maybe for the first time in 15 years I can go to the French and say, 'Let's see what happens,'" Federer told Christopher Clarey of the Times before his clay season began. . . "And maybe that's exactly what is going to give a beautiful result, and if so, there's no problem."

You can consider reaching the semifinals "a beautiful result." But his career ended up at the hands of Nadal, who often does it in Paris. Nadal improved to 24-15 against Federer, including a 14-2 record on clay.

On Sunday, Nadal will face the semifinal winner between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem later on Friday.

Nadal has come a long way since March, when he reached a low point after he had to withdraw from his semifinal against Federer at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, due to a recurrence of tendinitis in his knee.

His coach, Carlos Moya, said it took Nadal several weeks to regain his optimism. When the tour moved to Europe for the clay court season, a time when Nadal usually accumulates titles, I kept losing in the semifinals.

"It was not about the mistakes, it was the attitude," said Moya. "It's something you do not see often in him: negativity."

But after "many team discussions and from the heart to heart," said Moya, Nadal won the Italian Open, his first title of the year. He is on a winning streak of 11 games.

Nadal, who is 92-2 at the French Open, has never lost to the semifinal at Roland Garros. I have not lost the final either.

Fans bid farewell to Federer.

Nadal won two match points quickly while serving 5-2. In the first, Federer had a great return and Nadal sent a long backhand.

In the second, the crowd began to sing "Roger!" Stronger than they have the whole game. Maybe they will not come back, or that it will be the last time these two friends and rivals will face each other on this court.

Nadal then connected a service that Federer could not return and it was over.

Federer left the court moments later to more songs of his name and greeted the fans with both hands.

Once he left, the song changed to "Ra-fa! Ra-fa!"

Nadal is two games away.

Everything begins to feel inevitable if it did not start that way. Nadal breaks Federer again, this time picking up a short jump on the net for a right-winger. He is ahead, 4-1.

Federer's frustration begins.

Nadal quickly breaks Federer to take a 2-1 lead. Federer reacts by hitting a ball in the stands and gets a violation of the code for ball abuse.

Federer's service is key.

Federer's service was considerably reduced in the second set. I have only 53 percent of their first services, after getting 80 percent in the first set.

I only have two first services in the first game of the third set and I faced another break point, but I saved it.

The first service of Nadal, a focus of his coach Carlos Moya, has been dynamite. He has achieved 81 percent of his first services. I have remained in love to do it 1-1.

Nadal wins the second set, 6-4.

Nadal remained in love to take the second set. Federer did not play badly, but Nadal increased his level and now he's from another world.

Nadal breaks Federer to go up, 5-4.

Roger Federer went 40-0 in his next service game and ended up breaking. At the breakpoint, Federer tried again in Nadal and once again it did not work. Nadal hit a volley winner and will serve for the set.

Nadal works his magic.

With Nadal serving in 3-4, I've shown why it's so hard to beat on clay (and in general)

I made a double fault to make the 30-30, but then I hit another backhand winner for 40-30.