Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal revive their storied rivalry in the semi-finals of the French Open on Friday.

The match-up, which is 23-15 in Nadal’s favour, has undergone a transformation in the last couple of years. Federer is on a five-match winning streak against the Spaniard, which includes the 2017 Australian Open final – the last time the two met in a Grand Slam.

The last encounter on the tour between the two players was the final of the Shanghai Masters in 2017, which was won by Federer. They were scheduled to play in the semi-finals of 2019 Indian Wells Masters, but Nadal had to withdraw due to injury.

But the semi-final match at Roland Garros will be a whole different game, quite literally. While Federer lags behind in the overall head-to-head with his nemesis, on clay the numbers get even more one-sided.

Federer, the champion in 2009, is playing the French Open for the first time in four years. The ‘King of Clay’, on the other hand, has only been defeated twice on the red brick dust in the French capital in 93 matches since his 2005 debut.

Five of those wins have come against Federer, including four in the finals. They have met more than twice as often in finals than in semi-finals and the Swiss has never beaten the Spaniard at the French Open.

In fact, the 37-year-old has only beaten Nadal twice on clay, with his most recent win coming as far as 10 years ago in the final of the Madrid Masters. In their last match on clay in 2013, Federer managed to win just four games.

Here’s a look at all the key stats ahead of the big clash:

  • Federer and Nadal are meeting in the Roland Garros semi-finals for the first time in 14 years. The last time they met, the Spaniard was a 19-year-old enroute to winning his first Grand Slam while his opponent was the top seed.
  • Nadal and Federer have met 12 times at Grand Slams with the Spaniard leading 9-3.
  • They have met nine times in semi-finals of majors with Nadal leading 6-3.
  • The longest winning streak against each other is the same for both players – 5
  • Nadal has won 17 more sets than Federer in their rivalry (Nadal leads 67-50)
  • One for the Swiss’ fans: Federer has held in 31 straight service games against Nadal since the fifth set of the 2017 Australian Open final.

Federer-Nadal Matches on clay

Year Tournament Winner Score
2005 French Open Nadal 6–3, 4–6, 6–4, 6–3
2006 Monte-Carlo Masters Nadal 6–2, 6–7(2–7), 6–3, 7–6(7–5)
2006 Italian Open Nadal 6–7(0–7), 7–6(7–5), 6–4, 2–6, 7–6(7–5)
2006 French Open Nadal 1–6, 6–1, 6–4, 7–6(7–4)
2007 Hamburg Masters Federer 2–6, 6–2, 6–0
2007 French Open Nadal 6–3, 4–6, 6–3, 6–4
2008 Monte-Carlo Masters Nadal 7–5, 7–5
2008 Hamburg Masters Nadal 7–5, 6–7(3–7), 6–3
2008 French Open Nadal 6–1, 6–3, 6–0
2009 Madrid Open Federer 6–4, 6–4
2010 Madrid Open Nadal 6–4, 7–6(7–5)
2011 Madrid Open Nadal 5–7, 6–1, 6–3
2011 French Open Nadal 7–5, 7–6(7–3), 5–7, 6–1
2013 Italian Open Nadal 6–1, 6–3

Federer-Nadal Matches at Majors

Year Grand Slam Winner Score
2005 Semifinals, French Open  Nadal 6–3, 4–6, 6–4, 6–3
2006 Final, French Open  Nadal 1–6, 6–1, 6–4, 7–6(7–4)
2006 Final, Wimbledon Federer 6–0, 7–6(7–5), 6–7(2–7), 6–3
2007 Final, French Open  Nadal 6–3, 4–6, 6–3, 6–4
2007 Final, Wimbledon  Federer 7–6(9–7), 4–6, 7–6(7–3), 2–6, 6–2
2008 Final, French Open  Nadal 6–1, 6–3, 6–0
2008 Final, Wimbledon  Nadal 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5–7), 6–7(8–10), 9–7
2009 Final, Australian Open Nadal 7–5, 3–6, 7–6(7–3), 3–6, 6–2
2011 Final, French Open  Nadal 7–5, 7–6(7–3), 5–7, 6–1
2012 Semifinals, Australian Open Nadal 6–7(5–7), 6–2, 7–6(7–5), 6–4
2014 Semifinals, Australian Open Nadal 7–6(7–4), 6–3, 6–3
2017 Final, Australian Open Federer 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3

Match head-to-head across surfaces

Nadal  Federer
All matches 23 15
Clay court 13 2
Grass court 1 2
Outdoor hard court 8 6
Indoor hard court 1 5

Final head-to-head across surfaces

Nadal Federer 
All matches  14 10
Clay court 11 2
Grass court 1 2
Outdoor hard court 4 2
Indoor hard court 2 0

Road to the semi-final


1st rd: bt Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-2, 6-4, 6-4
2nd rd: bt Oscar Otte (GER) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3
3rd rd: bt Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (10/8)
4th rd: bt Leonardo Mayer (ARG) 6-2, 6-3, 6-3
QF: bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI x24) 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4


1st rd: bt Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-2, 6-1, 6-3
2nd rd: bt Yannick Maden (GER) 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
3rd rd: bt David Goffin (BEL x27) 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
4th rd: bt Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) 6-2, 6-3, 6-3
QF: bt Kei Nishikori (JPN x7) 6-1, 6-1, 6-3

What the protagonists are saying

Rafael Nadal:

“Having Roger in the semi-finals is an extra [special] thing. We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other. So it’s another episode of this, and I’m happy and excited. It will be a special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it. 

“Roger came back on clay because he’s a player who plays well on all surfaces and on clay he has good chances of winning. One thing is that he feels physically ready. He’s coming back because he wants to do so. And if he feels in good shape physically, well, he should not leave out a main part of the season. 

“After all the problems I have faced, what keeps the flame alive is this desire, the desire to play on the main stages where I’ve been playing tennis for all these years. This won’t last forever. So I want to give myself the maximum chances. For the time being, things are rolling well.”

Roger Federer

“The next opponent is ok [smiles]. He knows how to play on clay, unfortunately! 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. 

“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.”

The match begins at 4.30 pm IST and will be telecast on Star Sports Select.

(With ATP and AFP inputs)