PARIS – King of clay Rafael Nadal blew away Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on a windswept center court on Friday to reach the French Open final for a 12th time, seeking a record dozen titles.
Nadal raised his incredible Roland Garros record to 92-2 in a win that was tighter than the score indicated in their first meeting on Philippe Chatrier court since the 2011 final.
He won on second match point with a service winner in 2 hours 25 minutes against Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam winner who was playing in Paris for the first time since 2015.
If Nadal wins a 12th title he will pass Margaret Court, who won 11 Australian Opens in the 1960s and 70s.
“The semifinals of Roland Garros is not just another match, no?” Nadal said.
“And then have in front probably my biggest rival in my career with all the story that we shared together during all my career, for him during almost all his career with me. So that’s always makes the match a little bit more special and unique.”
But the Spaniard will not find out about his opponent until Saturday because rain on top of gale-force winds forced organizers to halt the second semi, with last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem leading world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 3-6, 3-1 at the time.
The match is to be completed Saturday morning, ahead of the women’s final set for 3 p.m. local time between Ash Barty and teenager Marketa Vondrousova, who both fought their way into a first career final at the majors earlier Friday.
Eighth-seeded Australian Barty beat American teenage sensation Amanda Anisimova 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3 after squandering two set points while leading 5-0 in the opening set.
Vondrousova, 19, saved three set points in the first set as the Czech came back from 5-3 down in each set to beat British 26 seed Johanna Konta, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2).
But it was the hyped 39th duel between icons Nadal and Federer that generated the most attention on a stormy afternoon in the French capital.
Nadal raced off to a quick 3-0 lead and took the opening set, though Federer briefly fought back. Federer then saw a 2-0 lead quickly evaporate in the second as Nadal, with his huge groundstrokes, remained the more consistent of the two.
And there was no coming back for Federer, who swung his racket around in disgust after netting a volley to fall a break behind for 2-1. Nadal eventually won five games in a row to lead 5-1, Federer held under “Roger, Roger” chants but Nadal then wrapped up matters.
The Spaniard, who now leads Swiss third seed Federer 6-0 in Paris and 24-15 overall, had 33 winners to Federer’s 25 while hitting only 19 unforced errors to his opponent’s 34.
“The conditions out there today have been so hard, so difficult to manage,” Nadal said. “Was the day to be just focus, accept all the adversities, and just be focused on positive all the time. That’s what I tried to do.”
Federer said he did not regret playing on clay for the first time since 2016 and returning to Paris.
“To return to the clay, it’s not like it’s been a shocker,” he said. “I thought it was a great tournament. I really enjoyed it. I think I surprised myself maybe how deep I got in this tournament and how well I actually was able to play throughout.”
He added: “It was incredibly windy. Especially for a big match like this for both of us, it’s just really complicated. But it was windy for both. He was better, no doubt about it. I had maybe mini chances today, but they were not big enough to win today.”
The women’s matches saw much more drama, although at first Barty seemed to be cruising when she dropped just four points to lead the serving Anisimova 5-0, 40-15 for two set points.
But the 51st-ranked American suddenly found the strokes that had helped her oust title holder Simona Halep the previous day, and won 10 of the next 11 games to go one set and 3-0 up. Barty however then hit back with six games to lock the sets and also controlled the third to win on sixth match point.
“I’m just proud of myself the way I was able to fight and scrap and hang in there and find a way when I kind of threw away that first set,” Barty said. “It’s been an incredible journey the last two weeks.”
Competing in her third grand slam semi, Konta led Vondrousova 2-0 and 5-3 before failing to serve it out despite holding three set points. Vondrousova came back again in the second, winning in 1:45 hours with a passing shot and a drop shot.
The 38th ranked Vondrousova, who has yet to drop a set, is the first teenager and the first unseeded player in the Roland Garros final since 19-year-old Jelena Ostapenko lifted the trophy two years ago.
“It’s the best week of my life so far. I’m just very happy with everything. It’s an amazing thing,” Vondrousova said.
The women’s semis were originally scheduled for Thursday but had to be pushed back because rain washed out the quarterfinal action.
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