Roger Federer, playing his first French Open since 2015, became the oldest man to make Grand Slam semi-finals in 28 years, since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open aged 39.

But in what perhaps an even bigger achievement, the 37-year-old set up a mouthwatering French Open semi-final clash with his clay-court nemesis Rafael Nadal .

The Swiss beat his compatriot Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to reach his 43rd major semi-final and eighth at Roland Garros while defending champion Nadal, bidding for a 12th title at the French Open, blitzed a weary Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

Federer trails his head-to-head record with Nadal 23-15 –despite winning their last five matches – and on clay, the record gets even more skewed at 13-2. At French Open, that reads a miserable 5-0, with Nadal winning their most recent Paris clash in the 2011 final.

However, it seems Federer is still excited to play his arch-rival and close friend. In fact, he said that playing Nadal was one of the reasons he returned to clay after four years.

“The next opponent is ok. He knows how to play on clay, unfortunately,” Federer joked at the end of his match, according to Roland Garros.

“Thinking back, what a pleasure to be back at Roland Garros. If I came back on clay, it’s also perhaps to play Rafa. Here it is. I have the match,” he added.

It is the third seed’s first appearance at the French Open since 2015 after taking time away from clay to focus on Wimbledon, but he has been in fine form in Paris and has only lost one set so far – as has Nadal.

“The complete dream would be to win the tournament,” said Federer. “Other players won’t agree. It will be difficult, but I believe it anyway.”

It will be Federer’s first Roland Garros semi-final since a defeat by Novak Djokovic in 2012. He has won the Grand Slam just once before, a decade back in 2009.