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Rafael Nadal beats perennial rival Roger Federer to reach his 12th French Open final

Spain’s Rafael Nadal, right, is congratulated by Switzerland’s Roger Federer after winning their sem
Rafael Nadal, right, is congratulated by Roger Federer after winning their semifinal match of the French Open on Friday.
(Pavel Golovkin / Associated Press)

Rafael Nadal made quick work of Roger Federer in their first French Open meeting since 2011, beating his rival 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 Friday in strong wind to reach his 12th final at Roland Garros.

Nadal has never lost a semifinal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. Never lost a final, either.

And he’s never lost to Federer in Paris, improving to 6-0. Overall, Nadal leads their series 24-15. Federer had won their past five meetings, but those were all on hard courts.

It’s a whole different task to take on Nadal on clay, in general, and at the French Open, in particular, where his one victory away from a 12th championship, which would be more than any man or woman has won at any of the Grand Slam tournaments.

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In Sunday’s final, Nadal will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic or No. 4 Dominic Thiem.

Like so many times before, Nadal’s topspin-heavy lefty forehand, his relentless ball-chasing and his return game gave Federer fits.

Frustrated the guy so much that the generally stoic Federer smacked a tennis ball toward the stands after getting broken to trail 2-1 in the third set.

It would soon be over.

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Federer, who was playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, hadn’t lost a set through five victories over the past two weeks. With an aggressive, head-to-the-net style, he had been broken a total of only four times by those opponents.

Nadal easily exceeded that in a span of three sets across less than 2{ hours, winning 6 of 13 return games.

The 37-year-old Federer, whose 20 Grand Slam titles are a record for a man, was serenaded off the court by spectators’ chants of his first name. He raised his right arm for a quick wave as he walked away — perhaps for the final time. He missed the tournament in 2016 with a bad back, then skipped it the next two years to prepare for grass and hard courts.

Also on Friday, Ash Barty came back from a set and a break down to end 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova’s French Open run with a topsy-turvy 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory Friday that put her in her first Grand Slam final.

The No. 8-seeded Barty, a 23-year-old Australian who took nearly two years off from tennis to play cricket, will face another teen for the championship Saturday: unseeded 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Vondrousova also reached her first major title match, eliminating No. 26 Johanna Konta of Britain 7-5, 7-6 (2). Vondrousova has not dropped a set in the tournament and can become the first teenager to win the French Open since Iva Majoli in 1997.

Both women’s semifinal matches saw massive swings of momentum, particularly Barty versus Anisimova, the 51st-ranked American who hadn’t ceded a set through the quarterfinals.

Barty began as well as possible, racing to a 5-0 lead within 12 minutes by winning 17 of the first 18 points.

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Moments later, with Anisimova serving at 15-40, Barty held two sets points. From there, Anisimova began playing the way she did in her upset Thursday of defending champion Simona Halep — and Barty suddenly lost her way.

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Anisimova took six consecutive games, and in the eventual tiebreaker, she collected the last five points. That began a run of 17 points in a row for her en route to a 3-0 lead in the second set. But then it was Barty’s turn to change things and she went on a six-game run to force a third set.

There was one last big shift to come. Anisimova was up a break and serving at 2-1 in the third when her coach signaled from the stands that play should be halted because of rain. The chair umpire checked the white lines, though, and determined the match could continue.

Anisimova then got broken there, opening another four-game run for Barty. Even though Barty needed six match points to close things, she did, indeed, finish the job.

Vondrousova, meanwhile, trailed 5-3 in each set but came back each time. Konta wasted three set points in the opener.


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