10.33am EDT 10:33 Thiem wins the first set 6-2! Djokovic is calling for the referee. He thinks the wind is making this unplayable. But it’s the same for Thiem, too, and it was the same for Nadal and Federer before them. Djokovic needs to accept the conditions and move on. Thiem is taking little time
Thiem wins the first set 6-2!
Djokovic is calling for the referee. He thinks the wind is making this unplayable. But it’s the same for Thiem, too, and it was the same for Nadal and Federer before them. Djokovic needs to accept the conditions and move on. Thiem is taking little time here to serve the set out. 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, game and set, as Djokovic, barely moving his feet, blazes into the tramlines.
First set: Djokovic 2-5 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is at the net when Thiem’s effort rocks him back, before a giant gust of wind blows a cloud of clay into his face, to add insult to injury. 0-15. 0-30. 0-40, when Djokovic uncharacteristically flunks into the net. Djokovic attempts the serve and volley but is broken to love.
First set: *Djokovic 2-4 Thiem (*denotes next server)
After the greyest of skies, the sun decides to briefly make an appearance, before disappearing as quickly as it came. Thiem appears to be almost relishing these conditions, while Djokovic is clearly uneasy, he just seems to be waiting for them to change. If he’s not careful this set will get away from him before they do. Some smart serving from Thiem gives him a two-game cushion once more.
First set: Djokovic 2-3 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic seems to have adopted Federer’s mindset. He’s playing well within himself. But it’s enough to get him through this game, conceding only the one point. I’m not sure who’s more muted: him or the crowd.
First set: *Djokovic 1-3 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Strange scenes as Djokovic, his head covered in a towel as he hides from the wind and rain, appears to have told the umpire he won’t play. He then changes his mind and decides to get back to action. This being clay, the players can carry on unless the rain gets much harder. But Djokovic clearly isn’t relishing these conditions. Thiem holds to 15 once more. He’s won 12 of the last 14 points.
First set: Djokovic 1-2 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Thiem, the fourth seed, navigates his way through his opening service game with almost as much ease, before stealing the first point on Djokovic’s serve. 0-15. 0-30, when Djokovic hits long – blame the wind for that. It’s also starting to rain harder now. Those fans who’ve decided not to take a break are getting their umbrellas out. We’ve done well to get this far through the day’s play without a rain break, however the forecast for the next few hours is worse. Djokovic scrambles to 15-30, appears to be in charge of the next point, approaches the net … but Thiem’s pass is just too good. 15-40, two break points. Djokovic drives his backhand into the net and Thiem takes the first break!
First set: Djokovic 1-0 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
The spectators, having failed to all take to their seats until about an hour and a half ago after a long lunch, have now decided to go for a spot of tea. The stadium is virtually empty as Djokovic steps up to serve. The pair sound each other out in the opening exchange, which lasts 20 shots. The next three points are much quicker and Djokovic delivers a love hold.
Tik! Tok! Tik! Tok! They’re warming up, so proceedings will commence soon.
A crazy stat for you: Thiem is the only active player under the age of 28 to have played in a men’s grand slam final.
Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set this fortnight but you’d expect this semi-final to be more competitive than the first. Thiem is such a talent on clay, and is appearing in the last four at Roland Garros for the fourth consecutive year, having finished runner-up to Nadal last year. Thiem has beaten Djokovic at the French Open before, prevailing in straight sets – 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 – two years ago. But that was the 2017 Djokovic, who was injured and suffering a crisis of confidence. This is the 2019 Djokovic, the current holder of three of the four slams who has reacquainted himself with greatness and is chasing his second Novak slam.
Nadal wasn’t quite the all-conquering force on clay that we’ve come to expect in the buildup to this tournament, losing three matches on the surface this spring, but he’s showing no signs of relinquishing his French Open crown. Today’s win in the Chatrier dust bowl – perhaps some of the worst conditions seen at Roland Garros – means Federer still hasn’t beaten him here. Only two men have managed that … and of course one of them is coming up next. Novak Djokovic will be on court shortly against Dominic Thiem.
Nadal certainly seems to hope so, as he lavishes praise on his defeated opponent in the on-court interview. Which is en Francais. Merde! But suffice to say Rafa’s happy to be in the final of what he calls the most important tournament of his career.
Nadal beats Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2!
Nadal wallops a forehand winner down the line for 15-0. Federer whacks a tame backhand into the net for 30-0. They’ve put a lot of water on the court to stop the clay from blowing about – but the dirt is flying into Nadal’s face, stopping him from serving. Eventually he does, 30-15. Which soon turns into 40-15, two match points. Federer’s rocket of a return draws the error from Nadal. But it matters not because Federer’s next return sails well long and Nadal is through to his
sorry 12th French Open final! Nadal once again gets the better of Federer at Roland Garros in this epilogue to their wonderful rivalry. Federer gets a standing ovation as he walks off court and Nadal, ever the gentleman, is also applauding. Despite Federer’s defeat today, you have to say it was the right decision for him to return to Roland Garros after four years away. Reaching the semi-finals will surely have exceeded his expectations. But will he be back next year?
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 2-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer decides to extend his misery for a little longer, pulling off perhaps his best shot of the match at full stretch to hold serve to 30. But Nadal will come out after the break to serve for a place in yet another French Open final.
Third set: *Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-5 Nadal (*denotes next server)
Federer is looking rather grumpy, as well he might as he gets beaten up by his greatest rival. His mood lightens slightly with a brilliant backhand drop-shot, which leaves Nadal slipping and sliding towards the net. Even Nadal isn’t getting that back. And there’s another delightful drop-shot for deuce. Nadal sends Federer scurrying right and left and right and left on the next point, before securing advantage. Federer tonks a backhand wide and there’s barely a cheer on Chatrier as Nadal takes the game. The sentimental spectators wanted Federer to win this, but that’s not going to happen.
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-4 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Quite ridiculous from Nadal on break point, when a game of cat and mouse ends on the 16th shot when the Spaniard’s effort skids on the sideline. There’s the double break and Nadal has mastered both his opponent and the conditions. He’s potentially only two games away from a 12th Roland Garros final.
Third set: *Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-3 Nadal (*denotes next server)
The wind is showing no signs of letting up and neither is Nadal. Having given Federer a glimmer at 30-all, he batters a backhand winner for 40-30 (has there been a more improved shot in tennis over the past few years than Nadal’s backhand? It’s now such a weapon) and ace No 3 of the match makes it game.
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-2 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
To give you an idea of the scale of the task now facing Federer: Nadal is 222-2 in best-of-five matches when two sets up, and he’s never lost from this position on clay. Nadal skips through on serve to love and not long after has two break points at 15-40. Federer Federer fires out and is broken. He promptly smashes the ball into row Z – that’s not something you see too often – and the umpire even has the audacity to give the GOAT a warning.
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-0 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Thanks Will. I’ve had my lunch, and it would appear most of the spectators have too, because the stands are nearly full. It only took them until 2.45pm. Tsssk. I know Will and I have been banging on about the wind but my God, it is so windy on Chatrier. It reminds me of a match between Federer and Agassi at the 2004 US Open, one of the first grand slams I covered, when the tail end of a hurricane was whipping its way through New York. Federer was immovable then, and played one of the most perfect sets of tennis I’ve ever seen against Hewitt in the final, but he’s in danger of being swept away here. Nadal has a chance to break at the start of the third set but Federer digs deep from 30-40 down to hold.
Nadal wins second set 6-4
Federer sends a backhand just long as Nadal does not give him any opportunity to hit anything close to a winner. A backhand into the net from the baseline puts Nadal into complete command. Three set points arrive when Federer fails to get on top of a bouncing ball. It’s all done as Federer whacks one well long (with a little help from the wind). Nadal is two sets up!
Second set: Federer 4-5 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
No messing about from Federer as he hooks a forehand which Nadal does not even consider chasing. Ooooh! Federer with a stunning drop shot which Nadal gets to, but his reward is watching a backhand volley speed past him. Federer thinks he’s found the line but his forehand flies just wide to bring the score to 40:30. Federer then miscues a backhand off the edge of his racket which loops wide to take us to deuce. Plenty of back and forth ends with Nadal whipping a forehand which Federer can’t get back to, as Nadal takes the advantage. BREAK! Nadal reads what Federer is doing with a drop shot, getting to it and then volleying a winner to put him in the driving seat. He will be serving for the set now.
Second set: Federer* 4-4 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
New balls here. Maybe they should try weighing them down a bit. Federer fails to test the new balls by whacking his return into the net but follows it up with a winner thanks to an incredible backhand right into the corner to level things up. Some lovely play at the net concludes with Nadal smashing a winner after Federer gets caught in two minds and just loops up a chip to Nadal to demolish. Nadal notches the first double fault of the match, much to his frustration. Somehow, I don’t know how, Nadal nails a backhand just outside of Federer’s reach to get to game point. Nadal is forced to the net, lifts it over but Federer is waiting to whip a backhand beyond his opponent. Nadal rightly celebrates gaining the advantage with a forehand to the baseline with Federer advancing after a great rally. There is a fist pump when he then holds, too.
Second set: Federer 4-3 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
An elegant Federer moves Nadal around, allows him to drop a winner over the net to make it 30:15. A powerful forehand from Nadal darts across the court and well wide. Federer holds thanks to a vicious serve which Nadal fails to return.
Second set: Federer* 3-3 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
The game starts with a fine rally, aided by some smooth striking of the ball from the baseline but it’s Nadal who takes the opening point as Federer whips a shot into the net when looking for a winner down the line. Federer gains revenge as he forces an outstretched Nadal to loop a shot well wide but the Spaniard whacks a forehand which Federer cannot cope with to edge ahead. There is plenty of red dust flying around the court, causing a slight delay but it does not affect Nadal who completes the win as Federer’s return lands long.
Second set: Federer 3-2 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer forces Nadal to the net but, despite making up plenty of ground, gifts an easy volley for Federer to lift a winner into the vacant half of the court. He isn’t so composed next time around, sending a volley straight into the net. Federer completes with the hold with a fierce forehand to the baseline which seems to die on Nadal and he cannot get it back.
Second set: Federer* 2-2 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
If this was cricket, they would certainly be utilising the heavy bails in these conditions. Nadal volleys but it clips the net and bounces wide to level things at 15:15. Both players are finding their rhythm in this wind, working out how powerfully they need to hit it in tough conditions. Maybe Nadal is a little more in tune with the wind, as he proves by finishing off the game with a volley at the net to level the set up.
Second set: Federer 2-1 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer goes 0:30 down after completely mishitting a shot which loops very long from the baseline. He gets back into it with some bold hitting and moving Nadal around the court, finishing off the point with a smash into a whole load of space. A backhand across court gives Nadal two break points – it is a lovely shot, especially in these conditions. Nadal miscues his return, looping the ball somewhere into the crowd to let Federer back in. He makes better contact on the next serve but it lands long, taking us to deuce. Advantage Federer as Nadal whacks it long – he really is having trouble working out how hard to hit it in the wind. A stunning rally between the forehand of Federer and backhand of Nadal ends with the Spaniard whacking a winner down the line to bring us back to deuce. An overhit backhand gifts Nadal advantage and he completes the break after Federer fails with a smash which seemed to take an age to come down in the wind, allowing Nadal to position himself to whip the ball past Federer.
Second set: Federer* 2-0 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
There is plenty of wind flying around, this time aiding Federer who counters the power of Nadal with some cunning shots before a slice from Nadal is thrown wide by the breeze. Then Federer plays a complete air shot to a Nadal serve after the ball dies and goes under the racket. Despite this Federer earns two break points but quickly gives up the first but he BREAKS after a backhand flies wide from behind the baseline. Nadal will blame the wind, I am sure. GAME ON!
Second set: Federer 1-0 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer bounces back from the disappointment by going 30:0 up but a cracking volley and a lob from Nadal brings him back into the game. It was a great lob from the baseline which Federer could not retrieve. Federer gets to game point with a forehand which seems to die in the wind and he holds thanks to Nadal sending one wide.
Nadal wins the first set 6-3!
Nadal is serving for the set. At 30-all, Federer seems to think Nadal’s serve is going to his backhand, but it fizzes to his forehand, which doesn’t land back in play. 40-30, set point. Federer survives when Nadal’s effort catches the net and lands wide – but he then flings a backhand long and it’s Nadal’s advantage. Cue an obligatory “VAMOS!” from the Spaniard. The pair are playing close to the lines here, left and right and left and right, and Nadal settles matters in some style, with a 84mph cross-court backhand! This match has a strange feel to it, what with the wicked wind and tardy spectators, but there’s nothing unfamiliar about the scoreline. This has gone the way that all but one of their previous Roland Garros encounters have; with Nadal taking the first set.
First set: Federer 3-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
With Djokovic on 15 slams (only two behind Nadal), you’d have to say if he were to win the title here it would only be a matter of time before he chases down Federer’s 20. The younger challengers still don’t appear quite up to the task of joining the grand slam winners’ table – though of course Thiem should give Djokovic a good test this afternoon. But Thiem is not such a danger away from Roland Garros and who else is ready to step up? Tsitsipas perhaps. But anyway, back to more immediate matters. Some wonderful strikes from Nadal on the backhand side and he holds to 30. Federer replies with his first love hold.
“I think the significance of this Fed vs Nadal match might be underestimated,” emails Nicolaas Van den Broek. “This is actually Nadal’s to lose, as reaching Fed’s 20 grands slams will be nigh on impossible if he fails here – and he knows it. By that logic this is a Goat match (for those Nadal disillusionists).”
First set: Federer 2-4 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Sacré bleu! Yet another break point, at 30-40 on the Federer serve. Pas de probleme pour Federer though, who gets to deuce, before saving another break point. But here’s a third, as the game time ticks over five minutes. But Federer does the business once more. Egalite. The pair then engage in prolonged combat, Federer looks in charge but his drop-shot is so wide it almost didn’t make the tramlines! Break point No 4, break point No 5, break point No 6 … it’s clear the crowd are supporting Federer rather than their 11-times champion but they can’t help rally Federer here, as the Swiss slaps into the net.