Roger Federer set to play ‘special’ final match of career on Friday with Rafael Nadal serving as bookend
Rafa Nadal is due to defend his French Open crown in the final on Saturday when he’ll end one of the greatest rivalry in tennis history. So, Rafael Nadal, why now?
The Spaniard began his campaign at Roland Garros this week by winning the hard-court event with an emphatic 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Roger Federer. On Saturday, Nadal will add another huge step to his claim on the Open 100 crown – becoming the first man to have played the final of all the Grand Slam events since the event launched in 1970.
Nadal began his reign as Open champion in 2004, having beaten both Federer and his then-tennis great Pete Sampras in the four preceding rounds. Nadal has lost only once in 18 finals at Roland Garros (11-7 to Federer), and has won the last three titles.
Serena Williams won the French Open in 2011 but Nadal has since gone on to break more Open records. In the last 19 years (2002 to present), he has won the Open final in 12 of the past 13 years, with his victories in 2008, 2011 and 2012 being among the most notable.
Nadal’s last Grand Slam victory came in April 2013 at Wimbledon, when he beat Federer for his first Grand Slam title on grass.
Nadal hasn’t lost a final in France since he made his last clay-court appearance in August 2007 at the French Open. At the same time, he is in the middle of a stretch of six clay-court matches during the season: he has won his last five tournaments.
Nadal reached 10 titles at Roland Garros in 2017 (second most all time behind Novak Djokovic), an Open record. Nadal won 11 titles at Roland Garros in 2018 – second to Djokovic on the all-time Open record for most titles won in a season (14).
The Spaniard has now played