The fates have conspired to ensure familiar foes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in the semi-finals of the French Open.
It’s Federer’s first French Open in four years and inevitably he’s made the last four thanks to a four set victory over Stan Warwinka. He missed the 2016 event at Roland Garros with back problems then skipped the next two because he wanted to try free of injury.
Nadal’s route to the semi-finals has been pretty straightforward and he saw off Kei Nishikori last time out. This will be the 33-year-old’s 12th semi-final at the event and he has been speaking enthusiastically about the prospect of another battle with Federer on Friday.
Often labeled the King of Clay, his stats in Paris are impressive. He has won the last five meetings against Federer including the finals in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011, although Federer will take confidence from the fact he has won the last five matches between the two.
Injury wise, Nadal looks in a good place right now but he has been dogged by a succession of issues through his career. Some have argued Nadal’s heavy impact style, the kind of sudden stop-starts behind the baseline, are the reason for many of his knee and ankle problems.
He also suffered from a chronic foot problem known as Kohler’s feet in her early years which meant he had his footwear specially made. Yet this too was a problem because it saw him put abnormal pressure on his knees.
Nadal’s epic battles against the likes of Federer, Andy Murray and others only served to test this theory. The 2000s have been the age of the marathon battle, often going over five hours - sometimes even more. He is - by trade - a player who profits from the opponent’s mistake through resilience and repetition rather than delivering a delicate drop shot at the net.
The fact that he’s still playing in 2019 is something you would not have predicted back in 2006 when he suffered a severe knee injury which saw him undergo stem cell therapy. This is in addition to the common conditions suffered by tennis players such as back pain, tendonitis and blisters.
His powers of recovery are astonishing but one wonders for how many more years will he be able to stay on top of his game.