Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Kei Nishikori during their quarter-final match of the French Open on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse
Roger Federer set up a mouthwatering French Open semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal on Tuesday when he defeated Stan Wawrinka in four sets to become the oldest men’s Grand Slam semi-finalist in 28 years.
The 37-year-old Swiss beat his compatriot 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to reach his 43rd major semi-final and eighth at Roland Garros.
He trails his head-to-head record with Nadal 23-15, but has won their last five meetings.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal, bidding for a 12th title at the French Open, blitzed a weary Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in his quarter-final.
“It was hard, really, really hard. Stan played a really good match, I’m very happy to play him here at Roland Garros,” said Federer.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion is the oldest man to make the semis at one of the big four tournaments since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open aged 39.
Wawrinka saved 16 of 18 break points in a thrilling encounter, but Federer quickly finished off the match after a rain delay to progress.
It is the third seed’s first appearance at the French Open since 2015 after taking time away from clay to focus on Wimbledon, but he has been in fine form in Paris and has only lost one set so far -- as has Nadal.
Nadal, who turned 33 on Monday, is three behind Federer in the all-time list of Grand Slam singles titles heading into their 39th career clash.
It will be Federer’s first Roland Garros semi-final since a defeat by Novak Djokovic in 2012.
Meanwhile, Johanna Konta became the first British woman in 36 years to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals on Tuesday in a performance which left US legend and seven-time Paris champion Chris Evert “speechless”.
Konta, the 26th seed, swept past seventh-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, last year’s runner-up, 6-1, 6-4.
“I am speechless and not many matches make me speechless,” Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, told Eurosport.
“Jo Konta, I take my hat off to you, I have never seen her play that kind of tennis, she would’ve beaten anybody the way she played today.”
The 28-year-old Konta had not won a match at Roland Garros in any of her previous four visits.
But now she has emulated Jo Durie who was the last British woman to make the French Open semi-finals in 1983.
“I’ve always said that whenever I step out onto the court, I’m always going to have a chance. I’m always going to have a shot,” said Konta when told of Evert’s glowing praise.
“I don’t think any player on tour can go on court against me and feel like they’ve definitely got it.
“I definitely back myself and my ability that way.”
Next up for Konta is a clash with either Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova or Croatian 31st Petra Martic for a place in Saturday’s final.
It will be her third semi-final at a major after runs to the last-four at the 2016 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017.
“I wouldn’t say it means more. It’s a different process getting here than when I got to the semi-final at Wimbledon or even when I got to the semi-final at Australia,” added Konta after her third win in 2019 over Stephens.
Both players complained about the famed Paris clay blowing away off the court in a stiff breeze.
But at least they had the advantage of getting back into the locker room before torrential rain, thunder and lighting brought the men’s quarter-finals to a halt later in the day.
Konta broke former US Open champion Stephens in the fourth and sixth games of the first set.
The Briton fired four aces and 12 winners past her 26-year-old opponent in the 35-minute opener.
Konta tightened her grip with a break in the opening game of the second set and that proved more than enough.
Such was Konta’s domination that she allowed Stephens just one point on her serve in the entire second set which ended with a whimper when the American sent a groundstroke wide of the mark.
Stephens, one of three Americans to reach the quarter-finals, admitted that the thin clay surface may have played into Konta’s hands.
“Clay is a great neutraliser, but there wasn’t very much clay on the court today. So that was a little bit tough,” said Stephens.
“She likes to play on hard court and grass, and the court was very fast today, and I think that kind of worked in her favour.”