Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: French Open Men’s Semifinal Predictions

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We’ll get a 6th Fedal matchup at the French Open in Paris as Roger Federer takes on Rafael Nadal for the right to take on Novak Djokovic or Dominic Thiem in the French Open semifinal (we’re also offering predictions for Djokovic vs Thiem). Federer has been strong in his return to clay court tennis and the French Open, while Nadal has yet to drop a set and remains the favorite to lift yet another title. Our panel of Steen Kirby, Yesh Ginsburg, Harsh Bhoot, Jim Smith, Damien Kust, and Eric Han breakdown this legendary clash.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal

Jim: This match will unsurprisingly attract massive attention, but don’t expect it to be particularly competitive. There is a path to victory for Federer, but it’s an exceptionally narrow one. He would need to deny Nadal rhythm by going big and going early and not missing for five sets. He might be able to sustain it for awhile, but eventually the power and physicality of Nadal will tell. There’s only one man in the draw who can stop Nadal and his name is not Roger Federer. Nadal in 3

Steen: Nadal has never lost to Federer at Roland Garros and he has buzzsawed through all competition dropping one set en route to the semifinals. That makes him the favorite to lift the title, and the heavy favorite against Federer, who for all his accomplishments, has never been strong against Rafa on the clay. Federer has played well in his return but he had to fight against Stan Wawrinka and nothing in that match indicates he’ll get close to defeating Rafa. Nadal in 3
(Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Nadal had yet to drop a set.)

Harsh: Not many anticipated this semifinal match but never count a 20 time Grand Slam winner out. This match has the potential to change the GOAT narrative for a win over Nadal at Roland Garros will surely tilt the scales somewhat in Federer’s favour. That being said, it’s tough to see how Federer can hit through Nadal on clay, with the ball slowing up Roger will have a hard time playing first strike tennis. If Roger’s backhand holds up against the mighty topspin forehand of Nadal this match may be competitive enough to be worthy of a semi final but the King of Clay won’t be surrendering his crown just yet. Nadal in 4

Yesh: The safe pick in this matchup is Nadal. It always is. And yet, Federer has won five straight against his Spanish nemesis, though none of those have been on clay. In fact, Federer last beat Nadal on clay over a decade ago. This should be a great matchup, and one of the most anticipated matches we’ve seen in a long time. The Federer backhand can stand up to Nadal’s topspin now. Unfortunately for the Swiss, I don’t think his serve has enough right now to win him enough free points. He’ll be in the match, but he won’t be able to break Nadal in the big moments, especially late. Nadal in 5

Eric: Even though Nadal leads 13-2 on clay, Federer will play freely in this match as he has literally nothing to lose in this tournament. Their last meeting on clay was way back in 2013, and a lot has changed since. For example, Federer’s playing style has changed immensely under Ljubicic’s tutelage and Federer has won the last five matches against Nadal. It will be a big test for Federer for sure, but this is arguably Federer’s best chance beating Nadal here in Paris, as the Spaniard’s clay form prior to Roland Garros was questionable. Federer in 5

Damien: All the pressure is on Nadal this time and Federer seems to love the position of an underdog. However, it’s probably too much of an ask for the Swiss Maestro to hit through the Philippe Chatrier court with enough power to keep Nadal on the back foot. No doubt he has the ability to win a set or two but I don’t think he can keep the level needed to beat the Spaniard at his second home over the course of a best of 5 match. One lapse of concentration here or there and Nadal is going to pounce. Nadal in 4

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