Roger Federer is in hot form heading into his clash with Rafael Nadal. Picture: Philippe Lopez
Roger Federer is in hot form heading into his clash with Rafael Nadal. Picture: Philippe Lopez

Grand slam titans ready to deliver Paris treat

AFTER the 2017 Australian Open final epic, the French Open will host an unexpected grand slam encore - a semi-final clash between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Federer, 37, and Nadal, 33, will do battle for the 39th time, with a place in the Roland Garros final at stake.

Contesting the French Open for the first time since 2015, Federer advanced with a nail-biting 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory over fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in a spectacular contest.

Nadal, chasing a record 12th Musketeers Cup, destroyed Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-1 6-3, improving his tournament tally to 91 wins with just two losses since debuting here in 2005.

Nadal holds a 23-15 win-loss record over Federer and is unbeaten in five Roland Garros clashes with the Swiss.

But while the numbers point to another Nadal victory - he's 13-2 on clay against Federer and 9-3 at the majors - Federer has claimed the pair's five most recent encounters.

Either way, it is a dream match for organisers.

"The next opponent is OK," Federer said with a grin after outlasting revitalised Wawrinka.

"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."

Nadal is itching to face Federer.

"Of course after having Roger in front in the semi-finals is an extra thing," he said.

"We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other.

"So is another episode of this, and happy for that and excited, no? Will be special moment, and let's try to be ready for it."

Rafael Nadal is chasing his 12th French Open title. Picture: Getty Images
Rafael Nadal is chasing his 12th French Open title. Picture: Getty Images

The Spaniard expects Federer will launch an all-out attacking assault.

"I really expect that he gonna play aggressive, changing rhythms, going to the net," Nadal said.

"That's my feeling, that he gonna try to play that way, because he's playing well and he has the tennis to make that happen.

"I have to be solid. I have to hit the ball enough strong to don't allow him to do the things from good positions.

"I need to let him play from difficult positions, so from there he gonna have less chances to go to the net or to play his aggressive game.

"So at the end of the day is play well. If I am able to play good tennis and play well with my forehand and backhand, I hope to put him in trouble.

"If not, I will be in trouble."

Federer will contest his 44th grand slam semi-final. Nadal tackles his 31st.

The winners of combined 37 majors - Federer 20, Nadal 17 - have not clashed on Parisian clay since 2011, when Nadal claimed a tough four-set victory in the final.

Their only subsequent clay court meeting came in Rome in 2013, when Nadal throttled his arch rival 6-1 6-3.

While Nadal has piled misery on Federer at Roland Garros, downing the grand slam record-holder in four finals, the veteran has a real sense of impetus this year.

The rivalry

Head to head: Nadal leads 23-15

Overall sets won: Nadal leads 67-50

Clay court matches: Nadal leads 13-2

Grand slam matches: Nadal leads 9-3

French Open matches: Nadal leads 5-0

News Corp Australia

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