Fedal XXXIX: RG SF #1

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Nadal leads this over-hyped sand-castle of a head-to-head 23-16.

The last time they were sequenced to sustain each other’s racquet translations was back in March, in Indian Wells, CA. Nadal pulled-out. He had enough to beat Khachanov in the IW QF, but decided he’d gift everyone a healthier Rafa for clay by skipping-out on his professional responsibilities — competing on the tennis court at the business-end of an esteemed Masters.

We said then as we’ve said hundreds of times: nothing new.

At 37, Federer made a deep run at IW, lost in the final and here he is again, on another huge stage, his first Roland Garros in three years, on the shakiest, least reasonable surface on the planet. Not bad for an old man who people forgot can actually play the clay.

Federer looked a little apprehensive today vs Stan. I might just put this on Stan’s powerful groundies, unplayable serve and occasional silky touch. The power is undeniable. Federer looked a bit like he did against Thiem in Indian Wells. Looking ahead, I thought fore sure this doesn’t bode well for tilt with the king of clay, if Federer actually pulled this off.

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Indeed, Roger did not look good as the second set came to a close and Stan found another early break in the third (Roger continued ((continues)) to have the choke-hold on his own ability to secure break-points. The statistics haunt him. People toss around the 0/12 against Tsitsipas in 2019 Melbourne, among other recent examples, but I almost always jog the memory to that 2015 U.S. Open final between Federer and Djokovic. His BP conversion in that match was 4/23).

He looked beaten as the third set took shape. He just couldn’t seem to find neutral in most of the rallies, starting with his ROS. Roger adjusted his court position, tried to run-around the BH, come to net. Stan looked poised to overcome his compatriot.

But the tinkering began to pay-off. Stan looked to get a little wobbly, as well, perhaps the Tsitsipas five-setter coming to collect.

Federer broke back in the third, won that TB, and then found his feet again into, through and beyond the fourth set weather delay, getting a precious break-of-serve at 4-4 and serving out the match.

Serving-out the match at 5-4 was anything but definitive. Two double faults, some shaky volleying and other decision-making, BH struggling, but the verdict had been read, I’m afraid. A match that looked perhaps like Wawrinka’s, then headed perhaps for a fifth and a Wawrinka war somehow found Federer’s clever agenda, and the 3 seed escaped somehow, someway, with a chance to throw-back and throw-down with his old buddy Nadal.

There are a thousand reasons to move Nadal through to the final to play, almost certainly, Djokovic. That’s how this tournament started, with those two monsters poised to resume battle.

That’s where we’ll pick-up tomorrow, following two more, hopefully, brilliant matches to finalize the 2019 French Open final four.

Sweet dreams and enjoy the tennis.

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