Roland Garros SF Preview: Nadal Meets Delpo In Blockbuster
ATPWorldTour.com previews the second Roland Garros semi-final on Friday
Ten-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, playing some of the best tennis of his career in 2018, will square off in a blockbuster semi-final in south-west Paris on Friday.
While Nadal has a 9-5 lead against Del Potro in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, the pair has met only twice before on clay courts. In their two completed red dirt matches, Nadal beat Del Potro 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 at the Paris major in 2007 and 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(0) in the 2011 Davis Cup final. Nadal also won their last clash in the 2017 US Open semi-finals 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.
Nadal, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on 3 June, is looking to secure a place in his 23rd Grand Slam championship final (16-7), while Del Potro, free from the wrist injuries that have hindered his progress for the past eight years, attempts to reach his second major final and add to his 2009 US Open crown (d. Federer).
Beating Nadal on clay is one of the sport’s hardest propositions and at Roland Garros, where he has won an astonishing 84 matches, only two players — Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals — have got the better of the Spanish superstar over five sets. Over the course of his 16-season pro career, Nadal is 108-2 in best-of-five-set matches on clay.
So far in 2018, Nadal has put together a 28-2 match record (24-1 on clay courts). During the spring European clay-court swing the left-hander has picked up 11th titles at both the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Nishikori) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Tsitipsas), in addition to an eighth trophy at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (d. A. Zverev). His lone defeat on red dirt came against Dominic Thiem in the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals.
The 29-year-old Del Potro, who will be contesting his fifth Grand Slam championship semi-finals, has so far produced one of the best seasons of his career (28-6 match record). He has won two trophies at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (d. Anderson) and his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy at the BNP Paribas Open (d. Federer) during a 15-match winning streak. The Argentine has also finished as runner-up at the ASB Classic (l. to Bautista Agut) in the second week of the year, which heralded his return to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.
Already assured of a place in the world’s Top 4 on Monday with his semi-final run, Del Potro is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his Argentine compatriots — Guillermo Vilas (1975, 1977-78, 1982), Gaston Gaudio (2004), Guillermo Coria (2004) and Mariano Puerta (2005) — by reaching Sunday’s Roland Garros final.
Nadal has spent marginally more time on the show courts at Roland Garros (13 hours, 10 minutes), while Del Potro has spent 12 hours and 59 minutes on court in his five victories.