Federer didn't play particularly poorly in a straight-set loss. Nadal is just that insanely good at Roland Garros.
PARIS — It was a sight we thought we might never see again: Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer at Roland Garros. But the result? A familiar one. Here are some takeaways from Day 13 of the French Open.
• One of the great truisms of tennis is that the hardest task in the sport is beating Nadal at Roland Garros. We got a vivid demonstration of that today. The 11-time champion looked very much like, well, an 11-time champ in beating Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The match was played in extremely windy conditions, with gusts surpassing 30 miles per hour—that didn't do Federer any favors, as his game is predicated on precision and variety. It's harder to play that way when you have to concentrate extra closely simply to hit the strings.
But Nadal simply plays a different sport on this surface. After a shaky start—he faced a break point in his first service game—he settled down and brought his bullying tennis to bear. Federer played exquisite tennis here to reach this match, and his level didn't particularly dip against Nadal, he just faced a better clay-court player. Federer was visibly frustrated at times. You get the feeling it was as much about the oppponent's relentlessness as it was frustration with his own play.
No game came easy for Federer today; serving at 4-4 in the second set, he led 40-0 before dropping five straight points to get broken. At that point, virtually all the energy left the match, and the third set was merely a formality. Nadal advances to his 12th French Open final, where he will be a signifcant favorite no matter who he plays.
• Forgive the fans on Court Suzanne Lenglen this morning if they required treatment during changeovers for whiplash. Ash Barty, the 23-year-old Aussie, started her first major semi playing like the favorite she was. Fifteen minutes into the match against 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, Barty was up 5-0, 40-15, a point from a bagel, making her formidable opponent look like a junior player. Then, as if she simply refreshed her Instagram feed, Anisimova stormed back to win the first set 7-6. She took a 3-0 lead in the second when….when she didn’t so much lose the plot as she buried it in the spam folder. Barty began hitting the ball without inhibition and toggled between too passive and too aggressive. But she won 12 of the last 15 games and closed it out 6-7 6-3, 6-3 to reach her first Grand Slam final.
• If Anisimova sometimes looked her age, Marketa Vondrousova, age 19, turned in a veteran performance today to beat Johanna Konta 7-5, 7-6 on the Greenhouse Court. In her first Slam semifinal, she handled unseemly conditions, an unseemly court assignment and a more seasoned opponent with great amplomb and flair. Down 3-5 in both sets, Vondrousova showed will to match skills, and came back. The casual fan will see her name and say, “Huh?” But she is terrific to watch. She plays with verve and variety. You’ll enjoy her, the first teen make a Slam final since….Caroline Wozniacki at the 2009 U.S. Open.
• Greed, of course, is one of the seven deadly sins. It also can be lethal for a tennis event. We got a vivid demonstration here today. Before the tournament the French Open decide to split the men’s semis into two sessions. Seems “cochon-ish” even when all four men’s top seeds breeze through. And when it rains, you’re really in trouble. Wednesday’s washout meant that the women’s semis had to be played today. But the TWO pre-sold men’s sessions meant that the women’s matches had to be played on lesser courts. So it was that, at 11:00 am here (5:00 a.m. ET and 2:00 a.m. PT), two women’s semis played on Court Leglen and Mathieu in front of thinly-peopled stands. As the French would say: not a good look. That it owed to avarice, not flagrant sexism, doesn’t make it acceptable.